Tuesday, December 4 2012, 11:05 AM CST
Wheeler: Wished it was me that was dead
MEDFORD, Ore. -- Jeffrey Wheeler, the man convicted of killing a young mother, was sentenced to life in prison.
The killing happened at Jessica Bethany's apartment complex in September 2011.
On Monday afternoon, details of the case were released for the first time to the public. Wheeler stabbed Bethany 22 times. Jackson County Deputy District Attorney David Orr says Wheeler also tried two separate times to set fire to the apartment complex.
"It was Wheeler's hope that the entire complex would go up in flames," Orr said.
Wheeler also addressed Bethany's family.
"I want to take full responsibility for the death of Jessica," he said.
Wheeler claimed he was high at the time of the killing. He blamed years of abuse to alcohol and methamphetamine for taking Bethany's life.
"If I had remained sober we would not be here. I lost my mind and completely shut down," he said.
"There was amphetamine in his urine which is a methamphetamine," said Orr. "It doesn't tell us whether or not he was actually under the influence when he committed the crime."
Wheeler's and Bethany's 11-month-old daughter was inside the apartment during the killing. Wheeler claimed he never intended to hurt his daughter.
Before exiting the courtroom, Wheeler said he "wished it was me that was dead."
Wheeler will spend life behind bars for killing Bethany. He's not eligible to apply for parole until after he's served 25 years.
Orr says it's unlikely he will ever be granted parole.
"It is heartbreaking," said Orr. "It was a 32-year-old mother of two children gone and with no reason for it."