Joshua Charles Weeks admitted in court Monday he slayed corrections officer Buddy Ray Herron of Helix in late 2011. The 23-year-old killer now awaits sentencing.
Weeks, 23, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and avoided facing the death penalty. Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus said as part of the deal the state would dismiss eight other charges against Weeks at the time of sentencing.
Weeks, cuffed, shackled and clad in a faded yellow jailhouse jumper, sat between attorneys Mark Rader of Ontario and Gordon Mallon of Silverton in the courtroom at the Stafford Hansell Government Center, Hermiston.
Circuit Court Judge Dan Hill of the Sixth Judicial District asked Weeks how he felt.
“Very nervous,” Weeks said.
Weeks confirmed for the judge no one forced him to plead guilty, and he said he was satisfied with the work of his attorneys. He also agreed to not use a defense of mental disease or defect during sentencing, nor would he test the constitutionally of the sentence.
Herron, 42, a father and husband, was en route from his home in Helix to his job at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, Pendleton, the night of Nov. 28, 2011, when he encountered Weeks, an occasional drifter, a couple of miles outside Pendleton on Highway 11. According to the state, Weeks stabbed Herron while trying to steal his pickup.
“Is that in fact what you did?” Hill asked.
“Yes it is, your honor,” Weeks answered.
The judge asked how he pleaded to aggravated murder.
“Guilty,” Weeks said.
Sgt. Thorne Hearn of the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office removed a cuff from Weeks’s right hand so he could sign the plea deal and waive his rights to a jury trial. Mallon said there was a red mark on Weeks’ wrist, and the defense would file a motion about that and other issues for the sentence hearing July 29 through Aug. 2. Weeks faces at least 30 years in prison, Hill said.
Herron’s family didn’t respond to a request to comment. His widow, Kim Herron, sat in the back of the courtroom and wept during the plea.
Contact Phil Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0833.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.