Murder suspect faces additional charges

CENTRAL POINT — Accused murderer Jeffrey Wayne Wheeler faces new charges connected to the killing of his ex-girlfriend last month in her Central Point apartment.

Wheeler, 36, of Central Point, entered not guilty pleas last week to charges of criminal mischief and recklessly endangering in Jackson County Circuit Court.

The new charges were filed when police and the Jackson County District Attorney's Office determined that Wheeler put his young daughter's life in danger when he attempted set fire to the apartment after murdering 32-year-old Jessica Bethany.

Detectives with the area's major crimes team unit believe Wheeler confronted Bethany inside her apartment on East Pine Street in Central Point.

The night ended with a violent domestic dispute between the two, during which Wheeler stabbed Bethany multiple times, police said.

Police discovered Bethany's body inside her apartment near Abby's pizza after a male caller reported "a possible deceased adult" at about 7:36 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 4.

Wheeler was identified as the primary suspect and was later arrested by police in Medford.

Police believe the couple's child was home during the attack. After killing Bethany, police said Wheeler tried to set fire to the apartment while the child was inside.

Bethany was well-known throughout Medford, having worked as a bartender at Howie's on Front downtown for several years.

Wheeler is charged with murder, five counts of first-degree arson and first-degree abuse of a corpse.

The murder charge carries a minimum 25-year prison sentence and a maximum life sentence, under Oregon law.

Besides their 1-year-old daughter, the pair also have children from previous relationships, according to people acquainted with them.

Friends and co-workers of Bethany have said that Wheeler showed threatening behavior toward her preceding her death. The staff at Howie's of Front Street, the bar where Bethany worked, at one point banned Wheeler from entering the business.

Wheeler's next court appearance is a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Dec. 19, according to Circuit Court records.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email

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