Killer can seek to serve in U.K.
A decade-old Colorado program allows Marcus Bebb-Jones to seek to serve his murder sentence in his native country of England.
If granted such a request, the former Grand Junction motel owner and professional gambler would become the first inmate in the state to successfully do time in his or her country of citizenship under a state program applying to foreign national offenders.
Bebb-Jones also could be paroled as early as six and a half years from now, state Department of Corrections records show, after his sentencing last week to 20 years in prison for the murder of his wife, Sabrina, in September 1997. That’s due in part to the roughly three and a half years of credit he received for time spent in custody between his arrest and sentencing.
Bebb-Jones, 49, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the heat of passion after he originally was charged with first-degree murder. He and Sabrina had gone to Dinosaur National Monument the day she was last seen, and he has told authorities she died when he struck her with his hand, and he left her body near Douglas Pass. A rancher discovered her skull seven years later.
Bebb-Jones’ mother, Pamela Weaver, told the Kidderminster Shuttle newspaper in England, “I think he has pleaded guilty because he can apply for repatriation, which means he could serve his sentence here and we could see him, so it is not quite as bad as it seems.”
Bebb-Jones’ and Sabrina’s son, Daniel, 19, lives in England with Weaver. They had asked that Bebb-Jones receive the minimum allowable 10-year sentence in the case.
DOC spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson said her agency has had a policy in effect since 2003 allowing transfers of foreign national inmates to serve their sentences in their home countries, but so far no transfers have occurred. To participate, a home country must have a treaty with the United States permitting the transfers between them.
Jacobson said she thinks a few people have applied for the program since its inception. One didn’t qualify. Another involves the high-profile case of Saudi Homaidan al-Turki, who is serving time for having sexually assaulted and enslaved a housekeeper. His request to be transferred to Saudi Arabia was rejected by DOC director Tom Clements a week before Clements’ murder in March. That has made al-Turki a focus of the investigation into the murder, although his attorney has said he had nothing to do with it.
The governor also can deny a transfer request. A transfer also cannot occur without approval of the U.S. Department of Justice and the treaty nation involved. Applicants who are denied can reapply after two years.
District Attorney Sherry Caloia of the 9th Judicial District said if her office were asked whether it approved of a transfer of Bebb-Jones, “we would look at our position at the time of the request.”
But she added, “I would be very hesitant to approve of the transfer based upon what I know today.”
As suggested by his mother’s comment, Bebb-Jones’ plea deal apparently helped ensure his ability to apply for a transfer. Foreign nationals who have committed violent crimes can apply under Colorado’s program only if they have fewer than 10 years to serve before being eligible for parole. The plea deal prevented the possibility of a life sentence had Bebb-Jones been convicted of first-degree murder. It also carried a stipulation that Bebb-Jones receive a maximum of 20 years, rather than a possible 32 for the charge to which he pleaded. A 32-year sentence could have pushed his parole eligibility date out past 10 years even with credit for time served, meaning he would have had to wait to apply for a transfer.
The DOC estimates that Bebb-Jones will be eligible for parole in September 2019.
That possibility “is not justice. Rather, it is a mockery of justice,” said former 9th Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson, whom Caloia defeated in November’s election. He has argued the plea deal lets Bebb-Jones off far too easily for his crime.
Caloia has argued that factors such as the lack of a determined cause of death, and the failure to recover Sabrina’s body other than her skull, would have made first-degree murder a difficult charge to take to trial in a 16-year-old case.
Weaver told the Express & Star newspaper in England that she still knows her son is innocent “and always will believe that.”
She told the Kidderminster Shuttle that people in England “do not understand the power of plea bargaining in America. He has been in the equivalent of isolation for two years — it wears you down and we have not seen him.
“... The only regret I have got about it is nobody has heard the truth. He has not really had his day in court but it was his decision and we have to respect that.”