Jarrod G. Wyatt is headed to San Quentin State Prison.
Wyatt was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences on Thursday, but will have the possibility of parole after 47 years.
He was convicted of first-degree murder with a special allegation for using a deadly weapon and three counts of mayhem after accepting a plea deal days before his trial. He was sentenced to a second plea deal crafted after the District Attorney’s Office grew concerned about the possibility of a successful appeal for the first plea deal.
Wyatt originally faced charges of murder with special circumstances of torture and aggravated mayhem, using a deadly weapon while committing a felony, aggravated mayhem and torture in the March 2010 killing and mutilation of 21-year-old Taylor Powell.
“The murders I see are so often senseless, but the brutality and horror involved in this case exceed all of the bounds I have seen,” said Del Norte Superior Court Judge William Follett after sentencing Wyatt.
The courtroom with relatives of both Wyatt and Powell. A slide show was played highlighting Powell’s life from childhood into early adulthood. It was full of photos at large family gatherings. A series of photos depicted Powell in the same chair on different birthdays. Others showed camping trips, karate class, hunting trips. And the prom.
Several relatives spoke about the loss of Powell; an uncle, aunts, sister, a cousin. Powell’s extended family played a significant role in his life. He lived with an aunt and uncle during his final year at Castle Rock Charter School. An aunt spoke about the mental anguish that caused her to miss work and suffer a long bout with depression.
When Powell’s pregnant cousin heard the news of his death, it sent her into labor.
The last time Erin Powell saw her brother was at her wedding, just days before the murder.
“Taylor lived a life of dignity and respect and his death was neither of those,” said Erin Powell. “I struggle ... to believe his life was actually complete.”
Kathy Powell was the last to address the court about the loss of her son.
“I know it breaks your family also,” said Kathy Powell turning toward Wyatt’s family sitting in the crowd. “Both of our families have been affected by this. I’m really sorry.”
She went on to recount the days following her son’s murder.
Her telephone rang at 5:15 p.m. the following day, she said. It was someone from the Del Norte Sheriff’s Office asking to speak with her husband, who was in the basement welding at their home in Tacoma, Wash.
“I knew it had to be about Taylor,” said Kathy Powell, who trembled throughout her address. “I thought, what did he do?”
She heard her husband say to the person on the phone, “No way. I don’t believe you. You are lying.”
She was holding her head in her hands sobbing when her husband told her, “He had been murdered. He had been stabbed.”
“My world stopped,” said Kathy Powell. “I couldn’t believe it. Not Taylor. Not my baby”
They went over to Erin Powell’s house, and when she answered the door she suspected something may have happened to Taylor’s brother, who was serving for the military in Afghanistan.
“No, it was Taylor,” said Kathy Powell.
“Never did I imagine his life would end the way it did,” she said. “He had a beautiful smile, expressive eyes, wonderful deep voice and gave the best hugs.”
She said she regretted not visiting him in Crescent City; she had spent time visiting her other son in Tennessee.
“I just assumed Taylor would be there,” said Kathy Powell. “I now feel guilt for not spending time with him in Crescent City.”
He moved to Crescent City to start a new life. He would call several times a week updating her about the latest happenings; learning the bass guitar, reading, a new job, working on attaining his G.E.D. He was excited about where his life was heading, she said.
“Of our three children he was the one who needed us the most,” said Kathy Powell. “He did not fit into a standard mold. He was a free spirit.”
There would be no more phone calls, no more advice, “I will never again hear him say I love you, mom.”
She has joined a support group for the families of murdered children.
“I just say he was murdered by his ‘friend,’” she said.
If people want to know the details, she tells them to search the internet.
“I do have nightmares,” said Kathy Powell. “Nightmares no mother should have. I can’t think anymore.”
She doesn’t read anymore. She used to love holidays.
There’s times when she can’t perform her duties at work and leans on co-workers.
“I work in opthalmology,” she said. “I look at eyes every day and everyday I think about what happened to Taylor’s eyes.”
She takes medication for sleep deprivation and anxiety.
“I do not have the word to portray the magnitude of loss,” she said. “My heart breaks thinking about the pain Taylor endured.”
District Attorney Jon Alexander said Friday he believes justice was served, but that doesn’t mean it is a cause for celebration or considered a victory.
“If you listened to the (Powell) family yesterday and(Wyatt’s) family weep in the hallway, you saw two families broken and devastated for life,” said Alexander.
Defense Attorney Jim Fallman shared similar sentiments.
“I thought it was very sad. The statements people made were very heartbreaking,”said Fallman. “When somebody dies there’s never a good result for anybody.”
In a letter submitted to the Del Norte County Probation Department, Kathy Powell explained what she went through during the court process.
She said she wasn’t told about Taylor’s eyes being removed until she happened to ask something about them at the mortuary, nor did she find out his tongue was removed until hearing it in court during a preliminary hearing. She had been assured her son was dead prior to the mutilation, only to hear during the second preliminary hearing he was still alive.
Having to deal with the media e-mailing and calling her was difficult as well as reading an introduction stating “Warning: This story contains extremely graphic content,” every time a story was published in certain newspapers.
She said that prior to July 2011, she had to remind the DA’s Office several times to notify her when there were hearings and had to rely on third parties to relay information to her since she lived out of state.
She said she was shocked and distressed when she saw two photos of Wyatt in the visiting area of the jail show up on Facebook last year and this year. In one picture he was making an obscene gesture to the camera with both hands, and in the other he was striking a pose with his arms.
She also expressed disappointment in Fallman for not allowing her to speak with Wyatt’s family during the case to tell them she did not blame them for what he had done to her son.