GREEN RIVER — Jason Lee Fletcher was sentenced Monday to eight to 14 years in prison in the shooting death of his wife Lena Fletcher on June 29, 2020, at their home in Clearview Acres.
He appeared before Judge Richard Lavery for the July 19 argued sentencing hearing. In Wyoming, involuntary manslaughter is a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years. The prosecution argued for the maximum penalty, and the defense recommended a suspended five- to seven-year sentence with supervised probation including the possibility of a program including substance abuse treatment at the Casper Reentry Center. In announcing the sentence, Judge Lavery said that probation was not warranted and a period of incarceration was appropriate. Fletcher received 135 days of credit for time already served.
Jason Fletcher, 46, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter during a jury trial in Sweetwater County Third District Court in April. He claimed that his wife accidentally shot herself, but prosecuting attorneys said the evidence told “a different story” — that Lena Fletcher could not have done it. The jury agreed.
It was not disputed that both Jason Fletcher and Lena Fletcher were intoxicated at the time of the shooting and that he was the one who loaded the revolver used. Jason Fletcher was the only known eyewitness, although the couple’s daughter was in the trailer at the time.
During Monday’s sentencing hearing, both the prosecution and defense called witnesses. A friend of Lena Fletcher and an employee from the Sweetwater Detention Center testified for the prosecution. Lena Fletcher’s friend testified that Jason Fletcher had a new girlfriend just days after his wife’s celebration of life service. The detention center officer testified that Jason Fletcher lied after being in an altercation at the jail. A victim impact statement from Lena Fletcher’s sister was also read.
Those speaking on behalf of the defense included the couple’s daughter and son as well as several friends of the family. The couple’s daughter Jenna testified that Jason Fletcher developed a relationship with another woman months, not days, after the memorial. The couple’s son Eddie noted that his parents were married for more than 20 years. He said that his mom would want his dad to be able to take care of his children. Others also said that Lena Fletcher would not have wanted her husband to go to prison.
During final sentencing arguments, Sweetwater County Attorney Dan Erramouspe said he knew that Lena Fletcher was loved. He said that while people talked about what she wanted, “I can tell you Lena wanted to be alive.” She had defensive wounds in her hand, and that means you want to live, he said.
Erramouspe questioned whether the shooting was an accident and said Jason Fletcher might have been charged with second-degree murder if it weren’t for a missing element. At first, Jason Fletcher said that his wife shot herself and that the gun was under her neck. At the time he didn’t realize that she had a wound in her hand. He told something that could not have happened, Erramouspe said.
“Physical evidence was the trail of truth in the forest of lies provided by the defendant,” Erramouspe said. Four things had to happen before Lena Fletcher died, he said. Jason Fletcher had to load the gun, cock it, point it at Lena Fletcher, and pull the trigger. Erramouspe asked the court to sentence Jason Fletcher to 18 to 20 years in prison as a deterrent and punishment.
It was a violent gun crime, and it was the man behind the gun who did it, Erramouspe said. The prison sentence would let people know that, “this is not how we’re supposed to be treating firearms; and this is not how we’re supposed to be treating our wife of 25 years,” Erramouspe told the court.
Defense attorney Joe Hamilton talked about Jason Fletcher’s family and how they rallied around him after the death of his wife. He said they all knew Jason Fletcher loved his wife and wouldn’t intentionally hurt her. He showed photos of the couple and said they did everything together. Many said their relationship was enviable, he added. Hamilton noted that both children spoke on their father’s behalf.
Hamilton argued that it was unfair to say Jason Fletcher lied about the incident at the jail. He was standing up for others at the time and just agreed with what the other person involved said. The other person threw the first punch, Hamilton added.
Jason Fletcher may have developed a relationship with another woman months later as a form of avoidance, Hamilton said. It must be viewed through a compassionate lens and doesn’t diminish how much he loved Lena Fletcher, Hamilton told the court. He also pointed to the fact that Jason Fletcher did well when he was out on bond. He stopped drinking and associating with people who had a negative effect on him.
Hamilton said the evidence suggests that Lena Fletcher also engaged in reckless conduct the night of the shooting and that Jason Fletcher called 911 right away and tried to administer emergency aid. He said Jason Fletcher’s removal from society would not serve as a deterrent because it isn’t possible to deter the behavior of people who don’t intend to commit a crime.
Sentencing Jason Fletcher to prison would further erode the family unit, Hamilton said. On probation, he would be able to help his mom, be there for his son, and be present after her daughter has her baby. The kids are victims, too, and want to be with their father, Hamilton said. Jason Fletcher is a victim of his own crime and has already been punished tremendously, he said.
When Jason Fletcher had the opportunity to speak, he talked about the incident at the jail and his relationship with another woman after his wife died. He said they had both gone through hard things, could comfort one another, and didn’t become a couple for quite some time.
“The night Lena died, part of me died too,” Jason Fletcher said. “I would give anything just for one single second with her. I would trade places in a heartbeat.”
Jason Fletcher said that the only thing he could do for his wife now was to get help for their children. He said that he needed help, too, and wanted a chance to make things right. He told the court that he was not downplaying the role of alcohol in the shooting and the foolishness of loading the gun.
In announcing the eight- to 14-year prison sentence, Judge Lavery said that the evidence showed that Jason Fletcher was the one who pulled the trigger. He said the court took all mitigating and aggravating factors into consideration in deciding on the sentence.
Lavery said he has to believe that the consequences of Jason Fletcher’s actions would haunt him for all the days of his life. The judge said he tended to agree with defense about general deterrence in involuntary manslaughter, but that there has to be deterrence for the behavior of playing with a loaded gun. He expressed concern about Jason Fletcher’s credibility and his reckless behavior the night of the shooting.
The judge said that although he believed Jason Fletcher had remorse and was hard working and intelligent, the crime that occurred is in a category that requires a period of incarceration. He said Jason Fletcher’s actions were as reckless as it gets.
“You can’t take a life, and that’s what happened,” Lavery told him.