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Fri, Nov. 22

Brown mulls plea in murder case

PRESCOTT - Tharpsky Oyal Brown, one of two defendants accused of stabbing a man to death in 2011, has been offered a plea deal that would avoid the possibility of his spending the rest of his life in prison if a jury convicts him at trial.

Police arrested Brown, 27, and Richard Dean Widman, 54, both of Prescott Valley, in March 2011 at their residence in the 8400 block of Manley Drive on charges of first-degree murder, Prescott Valley Police spokesman Brandon Bonney said.

Police investigators said the victim, John Eugene Jackson, 37, of Prescott Valley, got into an argument with Brown and Widman that turned into a violent fight in a parking lot in the 8200 block of Jacque Drive.

The two suspects allegedly beat and stabbed Jackson, Bonney said. An autopsy showed that Jackson suffered multiple blunt-force injuries and multiple stab wounds to his head and neck.

Widman was found to be incompetent to assist in his own defense and has been undergoing treatment in an effort to restore him to competency.

Both men are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy. Widman is also charged with failure to register as a sex offender.

Wednesday in court, Deputy County Attorney Dana Owens said a plea offer had been extended to Brown a month ago, but that he had not given them a decision. That offer includes dropping the first-degree murder charge in favor of second-degree murder and the conspiracy charge to misconduct with weapons by a prohibited possessor.

"This is a fair offer," Owens said, noting that Brown has two prior felony convictions in California.

Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley told Brown the difference in potential sentences was substantial. If he were to go to a jury trial and lose, the sentence for first-degree murder could be life or natural life, she said.

Under Arizona law, a life sentence means Brown would not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years; a "natural life" sentence means he would not be released under any conditions.

But accepting the deal would mean Brown would serve no more than 30 years in prison, possibly less, Ainley said.

The sentencing range for second-degree murder is 10 to 22 years, and he could get 7.5 years on the weapons charge, which Ainley said could potentially be run concurrently with the murder sentence.

Brown has until Friday to make a decision.

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