UPDATE: Jeremiah Raymond Berry and Jack Berry
BERRY RECEIVES THREE YEARS
by Steve Grazier – The Cortez Journal
A Montezuma County man who pleaded guilty to felony counts of manslaughter and menacing after admitting to killing his father and decapitating and dismembering the body was sentenced Friday.
Jeremiah Raymond Berry was sentenced to three years in a Colorado Department of Corrections facility followed by 10 years of “intense supervised” probation. He appeared Friday afternoon before 22nd Judicial District Judge Douglas Walker, who accepted a plea deal reached between the district attorney and Berry’s public defender.
“You killed your father, you shot him and you destroyed evidence,” Walker said in announcing the sentence. “You were (also) sexually abused by your father … and have suffered from mental abuse.”
In July 2008, Berry pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity after being charged with second-degree murder, a count that was dismissed as part of his plea agreement in August with the district attorney.
Berry, 22, admitted to killing his father, Jack Berry, who was 42. He told Montezuma County sheriff detectives he shot his father in the back of the head after he was raped by the man, then decapitated and dismembered the body and fed flesh to coyotes in February 2008, according to court documents in the case.
According to police reports, sheriff’s office detectives found body parts, including a skull, hands and feet, thought to be those of Jack Berry in buckets hardened with cement in a storage room of a Montezuma County dog kennel.
The judge’s three-year prison sentence includes credit for 443 days served and was the maximum term recommended under a plea deal reached with prosecutors and the defense. Berry’s manslaughter count had a 10-year probation cap following any prison time he might serve.
“Some incarceration is needed. I can’t sentence you without (it),” said Walker, who noted that Berry’s sentence will begin immediately.
A handful of friends and family members spoke on Jeremiah Berry’s behalf during the sentencing proceeding. His mother, Rita Gallegos, said her son was robbed of a normal childhood because of years of physical and sexual abuse from Jack Berry.
“Jeremiah stopped a cycle of abuse. He’s not a cold-blooded killer,” Gallegos said. “His father was a monster, and Jeremiah was a victim.”
One of Berry’s sisters, Rebecca Lopez, agreed.
“Our father took (Jeremiah’s) strength and ambition … and his (right) to know he was a man,” she said. “Since Jeremiah was born, he has been in prison.”
Jeremiah Berry was immediately ordered back into custody of the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office and will soon be transported to a state corrections facility in Denver. However, following Friday’s hearing, the judge awarded Berry a few minutes to meet with family members in a private court chamber to say goodbye.
Public defender Chris Trimble, counsel for Jeremiah Berry, called his client’s sentence a “just outcome.”
“It’s sad to see him suffer after a generation of abuse that he was forced to end. Jack Berry was a sadistic monster, and Jeremiah Berry has been a hero,” said Trimble, who noted that on numerous occasions, Berry “self mutilated” his body while in jail and made several attempts of suicide.
Two mental evaluations over the course of Berry’s case suggested he was competent enough to stand trial; however, Kathy Vetter, a sheriff’s department nurse, said he was in serious need of mental health care.
During his remarks to the judge, District Attorney Jim Wilson summed up the plea agreement and potential sentence as a “combined effort” between the defense and prosecution. He said the deal balances the community’s needs with those of Jeremiah Berry.
“We need to give him what he needs to be a constructive member of society,” Wilson said. “He is a victim just like he is a defendant. He’s a troubled young man.”
I’m very unhappy about this sentence, and for once, it isn’t because it’s too short. Jeremiah Raymond Berry does not belong in prison. Period.
In a justice system that paroles rapists and murderers after sering half of their sentences, a justice system that sentences child molesters to the same prison terms as animal abusers, in a justice system that lets guilty people go free because a police officer forgot to sign a form in the proper place, a young man who was raped, beaten, and mentally abused from the time he was a little child is in prison doing a three year bid for killing his abuser.
Whether or not Jeremiah Berry was competent to stand trial isn’t the issue. The question is; Is Jeremiah Berry competent to sit in a prison cell for three years, considering how badly damaged his psyche is from all the abuse his father, Jack Berry, inflicted on him throughout his life?
Of course, to anyone with functioning brain cells, the answer must be a resounding “No!” Now I don’t know what the odds are Jeremiah will get the treatment he so desperately needs while confined in a Colorado State prison, but no doubt there not nearly as good as they would be if he had been confined in a Colorado State mental hospital.
Some things just don’t make sense to me, no matter how hard I try to make them. The good news is that his sister Rebecca has told PYSIH that Jeremiah will be out of prison “by next year.”
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