No plea for Brit in slaying of wife
GLENWOOD SPRINGS—Hopes of reaching a plea agreement and avoiding a trial were dashed Thursday when Marcus Bebb-Jones entered a not-guilty plea to a first-degree murder charge in the death of his wife, Sabrina.
Bebb-Jones’ arraignment had been scheduled for Wednesday but was postponed a day as the possibility loomed of reaching a deal in the case. The delay allowed Sabrina Bebb-Jones’ parents and three of her siblings to travel to Glenwood Springs and be able to attend Thursday’s court proceedings.
“I think it’s clear what we were all here for, and what we were here for, our expectations weren’t met,” a clearly disappointed 9th Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson said after the arraignment.
Now, he said, “My hope is to achieve justice in this case. I have my idea of what justice is and I’m going to pursue that and I’m going to pursue it relentlessly.”
District Judge Dan Petre set a five-week trial that begins Nov. 5. That timing resolved Beeson’s concern that it might start later and carry into next year. Beeson, a Republican, believes prosecutors would have been left at a disadvantage if he lost in this fall’s election to Democratic challenger Sherry Caloia and there was a change in administration in the midst of a trial.
Twelve jurors and four alternate jurors will be selected for the trial.
Marcus and Sabrina Bebb-Jones owned the Melrose Hotel in Grand Junction when she disappeared in 1997. Her skull was found in 2004 on Douglas Pass in Garfield County, which is why the case is being prosecuted there.
Petre left the door open for continued plea negotiations through Oct. 12, after which he would allow a deal based only on extraordinary circumstances. But Beeson told Petre that he wouldn’t bring back Sabrina’s family under the same circumstances, and the time for negotiations was over.
“From the people’s perspective we’re going to trial. There will be no further plea negotiations,” he said.
Deputy public defender Matt Morriss told Petre he’s open to the possibility of more talks, noting that “things can happen.”
Bebb-Jones didn’t speak in court Thursday and Morriss entered his plea on his behalf. Morriss characterized the plea negotiations to Petre as having been “extensive.” Outside of court Thursday, Morriss declined to speak further about those negotiations and Bebb-Jones’ decision. He said he assumed Sabrina’s family was there to hear Bebb-Jones’ decision, whichever plea he entered.
Among those attending Thursday’s arraignment was Eric Ashworth, who had been an investigator in the case for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office but recently resigned, apparently over allegations that he improperly used a department credit card. Beeson has indicated Ashworth won’t be testifying at the trial. A second sheriff’s investigator worked with Ashworth on the case and is expected to testify.
Bebb-Jones is being held in the Garfield County Jail. He was arrested in 2009 at his mother’s home in England, where he had been a professional gambler. He was flown to Colorado last year after losing his fight against extradition.