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Yeaw sentenced to up to 20 years for Alstead shooting death

Union Leader Correspondent

December 14. 2017 4:41PM
Karma Duguay speaks at the sentencing hearing for her son, Cody Yeaw, in Cheshire Country Superior Court Thursday morning. (Meghan Pierce)

Cody Yeaw, 26, enters the courtroom at Cheshire Country Superior Court Thursday morning for sentencing for the shooting death of an Alstead man. (Meghan Pierce)

KEENE - After a morning of emotional testimony, Cody Yeaw, 26, was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison Thursday for killing an Alstead man last January.

Yeaw plead guilty to reckless manslaughter for shooting Robert Wesley, 57, in the head in his Alstead home Jan. 7.

“I never intended for any of this to happen,” Yeaw said in Cheshire County Superior Court. “Robby was one of my closest friends. And I know that I was one of his. … He loved me like a son. I had so much respect for that man.”

Yeaw described spending last Christmas with Wesley at the Alstead residence they had shared for two years.

“I woke up and he had a breakfast ready with some eggnog, eggs, and we had some gifts for each other we unwrapped and I remember one random gift I had gotten him was kangaroo jerky cause he had told me he had never tried beef jerky before,” Yeaw said.

Yeaw apologized to family in the courtroom, naming many of them.

“My heart goes out to his family, I can’t imagine what they have gone through,” he said.

On Nov. 9, Yeaw pleaded guilty as part of a deal that capped potential jail time at 11 to 24 years. Judge David Ruoff was not be bound by the deal Thursday morning, but Yeaw had the right to withdraw his guilty plea if more than 24 years had been imposed.

In court Thursday, defense attorney Mark Sisti said Yeaw didn’t want Wesley’s family put through the ordeal of a trial and he accepts responsibility for his actions.

Sisti explained that Yeaw had little experience with firearms and the night of the shooting the men made the mistake of mixing alcohol and guns, which led to the deadly shooting.

Sisti asked for leniency, five to 10 years, saying Yeaw is a good man who handled firearms while drinking and then gave police an “idiotic” explanation as to how the shooting occurred. But, the attorney emphasized, Yeaw never denied he was the one who had shot Wesley.

Assistant County Attorney Kathleen O’Reilly said Yeaw’s description of the shooting was refuted by forensic evidence and that he misrepresented how far he was from Wesley when the gun discharged.

The lengthy sentencing hearing Thursday morning included testimony from more than a dozen people, including victim impact statements from Wesley’s family and statements of support from Yeaw’s friends and family and a county jail chaplain, who attested to his character.

Yeaw is a good man, son, brother and friend, his supporters said. They said he was a hard worker and forgiving, that he converted to Christianity several years ago, that his father died unexpectedly last fall. After being diagnosed with diabetes at the age of six, he focused on living healthy and encouraged loved ones to do the same, they said.

Wesley’s family members said they deeply grieve his death. In a statement read by a victim advocate, Barbara Wesley said Yeaw destroyed her family when he murdered her only son.

“We all could see the evil side of Yeaw, but Rob who had worked with the mentally ill for years continued to work on fixing Yeaw and it cost Rob his life,” Barbara Wesley said. “Your honor, my plea would be that Yeaw spend the rest of his life in prison and then burn in hell for all of eternity.”

Judge Ruoff said he would not be handing down the lenient sentence Sisti requested. Investigators and prosecutors had already been lenient charging Yeaw with manslaughter and agreeing to the 11-to-24 year capped plea when the maximum penalty for manslaughter is 30 years, the judge said.

“In the end of all this what I keep coming back to is the autopsy and the scientific description of how the victim died in this case, which is a contact gunshot wound to the head,” Ruoff said. “And I can’t for the life of me understand how that happened.”

Ruoff said the shooting remains a mystery because Yeaw has not given an adequate account of what transpired.

“The answer that you gave to police is not consistent with what the physical evidence describes. And in the end I can’t get past that fact,” the judge said. “One of the things I can’t get past … is the nature and circumstances of this conduct. … I understand, Mr. Yeaw, that you never intended for any of this to happen and that’s what makes it so difficult.”

In court documents, Dr. Jennifer Duval, the state’s assistant deputy medical examiner, told police she was “certain that the barrel of the gun was pressing against” Wesley’s head at the time he was shot. A “muzzle stamp” on his skin where he was shot indicates this, she said.

“Dr. Duval states that the angle of the shot was front to back and slightly downward, which contrasts Yeaw’s explanation of where the gun was when he pulled the trigger,” court documents said.

Ruoff sentenced Yeaw to 10 to 20 years in state prison.

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