SOUTH BEND — One of five active recent murder cases in Pacific County has been resolved, and the killer will spend the next two decades behind bars. The sentencing hearing on Sept. 30 had a jam-packed Pacific County Superior Courtroom in front of Judge Donald J. Richter, where tensions ran high.
The sentencing of Jesse J. Bridges, 25, of Grayland, comes on the heels of a plea agreement that was worked out between Pacific County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Daniel Crawford and Bridges’ attorney, Jacob R. Clark, in which Bridges admitted to intentionally killing his friend Spencer Cheney.
The murder occurred sometime between June 20 and July 2, when Bridges shot and killed Cheney and hid his body inside a vehicle, and covered it with a tarp. It wasn’t until his girlfriend, Jamie Helige, notified law enforcement on July 8 that Bridges was arrested.
After initially denying killing Cheney, Bridges admitted the murder to his attorney and two mental health professionals.
Heading into the plea agreement hearing on Sept. 9, Crawford and Clark worked out a deal to amend Bridges’s charges of first-degree murder and two counts of witness tampering to second-degree murder and one count of witness tampering.
The lesser charge meant that Bridges could no longer face a potential life sentence he could have received if the case was taken to trial and he had been found guilty.
The sentence range was between 154-254 months in prison and 36 months of community custody.
Plea for no mercy
Cheney’s mother, Carey Young, and his wife, Jessica Cheney, provided the court with victim impact statements. They both asked Richter to show Bridges zero mercy and for him to sentence the killer to the maximum allowed by law.
“Jesse Bridges has total disregard for the law and human life,” Young stated. “We lost a son, a daddy, a brother, a grandson, a friend. The person that I was before 11 p.m. on July 7, 2022, is no longer the same person I am today because of Jesse Bridges’ gruesome actions, and I will never be that same person again.”
The most emotional statements came from Jessica Cheney, who recounted the struggles of her and Cheney’s five-year-old daughter, who she said is having a very difficult time coping with the death of her father. Cheney’s aunt, Teresa Christensen, also submitted a letter asking Richter to give Bridges the maximum penalty allowed by law stating, “Mr. Bridges has given my family a life sentence of sorrow and grief.”
“My 5-year-old daughter has told me many times that she wants to die so that she can be with her daddy,” Jessica Cheney told the court. “When she is doing something unsafe, and I warn her to be careful, so she doesn’t get hurt, her response is ‘I don’t care, I want to die.’ I shouldn’t have to worry that she is going to harm herself because of how often she states she wants to die.”
“She has gone backwards; she went from a very bright, full of smiles, smart girl to an angry, temperamental child carrying a burden that no child should have to carry,” she added.
Jessica Cheney described the time since losing her husband as “like having the wind knocked out of me.” She continues to struggle with coping with the loss of her husband and being strong for their child, who is suffering the most.
“When Jesse Bridges killed Spencer, he tore apart our family’s lives, and he should be robbed of his future as well,” Jessica Cheney said. “It is only fair that he should have to repay what he has stolen with his own freedom being taken for the rest of his life, which is why I am not just asking but pleading with you to show no mercy to this man as he showed no mercy on Spencer and he still shows no remorse.”
“Jesse Bridges, I hope you never get out of prison and have freedom. I sincerely hope at some point that your conscience comes to life and you experience the same trauma you inflicted on our family. I hope you wake up every day with the reality of what you did, and it becomes a nightmare to you as it has done to us,” she added.
Plea for mercy
In contrast to the statements made by Cheney’s family, Bridges’ family asked the complete opposite; they wanted Richter to show mercy. Bridges’ grandfather told the court of the man’s struggles with drug addiction and troubled upbringing, including running off at the age of 15 with a woman 11 years older than him. Other family members provided the court with written statements, including Helige.
“There will be a hollow victory for [the] detectives and the prosecution because there is a why and what really happened,” Bridges’ grandparents, George and Linda Hall, stated in a written statement. “Cory, the detective, drove all the way to our home and talked to us; he said he believed Jesse did it, but he also wished he could find out why. I said if Jesse did it, there had to be a reason; he agreed. Jesse said sometime when we were alone; he would tell me why he is protecting someone.”
Helige also asked the court for some mercy for her would-be husband and told the court of Bridges’ troubled upbringing and that he never had a chance in life. She also believes that had both men gotten help, the murder would have never happened.
“I believe if either one of these two men had gotten the help they needed and were given a real chance to show who they were or could have been outside of drugs, this could have been prevented,” she stated. “One life was lost in June, but that doesn’t mean two lives should be lost. What Jesse did was a horrible thing; trust me, I still fight with my mind and my heart every single day on whether or not this was all real even after seeing him in court.”
“But he deserved a chance to be truly heard, to really show who he is and the amazing impact he could have on the lives of children who are going through similar struggles like the ones he encountered growing up. Yes, he is the love of my life, but I’d give anything for him to be able to show the world the man I’ve always known him to be,” she added.
Helige’s mother, Janet Hemenway, asked Richter not to consider Cheney leaving behind a child as part of his decision because the man had already decided not to be in her life.
“Spencer had a daughter that he left behind, but the impact of his absence in her life should not be a part of determining [Jesse’s] fate because while [he] had no right to take Spencer’s life, being absent from his daughters’ life was a choice Spencer made while he was still living and caught up in his own drug addiction,” Hemenway stated.
“I believe [Jesse] without drugs is a good person with something important to share with the world, and his life should be considered worthy of saving. I pray every day that you can find it in your heart to have mercy and give [Jesse] the minimum sentence possible, allowing him to make amends for his crime by giving back to society and not being a burden on society,” she added.
Exactly why the murder occurred is still unknown, and Clark stated that only Bridges and Cheney know why the murder occurred and how the chain of events played out. However, he made a bold claim from Bridges as to why it did.
“In late June, Mr. Cheney had come to stay and hang out with my client and Angela Bridges, who owns the property, and drug use was something that was going on during that period of time with the parties. Mr. Cheney was asked to leave by Mrs. Bridges, and he did not. He was asked to leave by Jesse Bridges, and he would not,” Clark stated.
“Mr. Cheney attempted a sexual assault against my client, and my client left at that time. Confused as to what he should do, he continued to use drugs, and when he came back, Mr. Cheney — this is in not only in the newspaper that was submitted, but it was in reports — Mr. Cheney had urinated on my client’s tent where he was sleeping. My client got upset with him and yelled at him to leave, and he laughed at him, and my client basically freaked out, and he killed Mr. Cheney,” Clark said.
Wanted to kill?
Bridges’ former cellmate inside the Pacific County Jail, Jimmy Rice, came forward to investigators before the plea agreement was reached. He was expected to testify against Bridges if the case went to trial in exchange for a plea agreement he received in his own case.
Richter was provided a copy of a written statement from Rice dated Sept. 16, which recounts conversations he had with Bridges. Rice stated that the incident was a result of Cheney urinating on Bridges’ tent, as investigators had previously determined.
“He then took the gun Jesse’s girlfriend bought for him in Tacoma, put a round in the chamber, walked over to Spencer’s car where he was taking a nap in the driver seat,” Rice wrote in the statement. “He told me he shot Spencer twice in the upper chest and neck area. He then walked away.”
Rice goes on to state that Bridges returned to the vehicle and discovered that Cheney was not yet deceased and fired another round at the man, striking him in the head. The shot reportedly caught the attention of Bridges’ mother, who came outside and was told by Bridges what he had done.
Over the course of three more days, Rice alleges that Bridges stabbed the man and planned to use a hazmat suit to dismember Cheney with a chainsaw and bury the remains. Rice also alleged more sinister news.
“He told me that [it] was something he had on his bucket list,” Rice stated. “Jesse has expressed no remorse for what he has done.”
“The court understands the inadequacy of anything the court does at this point to compensate or diminish the pain and anguish that is caused by the loss of your loved one,” Richter said. “It is tragic to hear the words of a mother, the words of a wife over the loss of a son and husband.
“It is doubly so to hear of a daughter who will now grow up without a father and inadequate as those words may be, and the sentiment that I am trying to convey, you have my deepest sympathies,” Richter added.
Richter sentenced Bridges to 254 months in prison, the equivalent to approximately 21 years, which will be followed by three years of community custody supervision from the Washington State Department of Corrections. For the second count, he gave Bridges 12 months which will run concurrently with the maximum sentence.
“To Mr. Bridges, today is hopefully a day that you begin to understand on some at least small level the pain and anguish that you have caused through your actions. Regardless of who this individual was to you or what you felt about this individual, your victim was a son, was a husband, and was a father, and the impact of your actions will be felt for decades, if not longer, “ Richter said.
“There is no action at this point that you can take that will ever repay that debt. That is not to mean that you should not spend the rest of your life attempting to do so and the way that you move forward from this moment and the way you choose to live your life going forward because, as unfair as it may seem to the victim’s family, your life is going to go forward, it is going to continue and you will have opportunities that their loved one will never have now,” he added.
Under terms of the plea agreement, Bridges cannot appeal his conviction.