PORTLAND, Ore. - An offer is on the table that would send Parrish Bennette to jail for 18 years for the murder of Yashanee Vaughn.
The offer would mean no parole, no chance for early release and no time off for good behavior if Bennette pleads guilty to killing the 14-year-old in March, 2011, according to sources.
A hearing has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on Thursday to discuss the offer. There is no guarantee it will be accepted.
Bennette originally told his father that Vaughn was killed when his gun accidentally went off but later denied having made those statements when questioned by detectives.
The offer came about after discussions between Bennette’s lawyers and prosecutors.
Reaction from Victim's Family
Members of Vaughn’s family were told about the possibility of a deal in a meeting Tuesday afternoon and were originally very vocal that they thought that 18 years was not enough. At least one member of the family, though, pointed out that no amount of time would bring Yashanee back and that there was a certain wisdom in accepting a guaranteed prison time for Bennette, sources told KATU.
At the meeting, there was discussion of the fact that if they did not reach a settlement and went to trial, there would be no guarantee of conviction. And, even if he was convicted of the top charge, there are several mitigating factors that could result him in not serving much more than 18 years anyway.
Among the factors that could weigh against a conviction are the fact that he has claimed the shooting was an accident, that he had a clean record, his age and that, ultimately, he did help lead investigators to her body.
The family put out a statement late Tuesday expressing displeasure with the possible settlement. "Today is a sad day for justice for Yashanee and her family," the statement said.
Yashanee’s grandmother, Reynelda Hayes, added: "It’s my time to mourn. I’ve held my family together for two years and now my heart is filled with tears and regrets we could not save my granddaughter from this monster."
The family’s statement also states they believe that Bennette had help, something investigators strongly dispute.
Sources told KATU that while Bennette (pictured at right in a booking photo) did ask a friend to hide the gun, there is not a shred of evidence that anyone was else was involved in either the murder or the disposal of Yashanee’s body afterward.
If no settlement is reached, the trial is scheduled to begin on February 1.
"Of course we want more," Vaughn's aunt, Shawnta Hayes, later said on camera. "We want him in jail for life. But what can we do?"
"The community has stood by us, behind our family, for a lot of this and we can't thank them enough," Hayes added. "But it just feels like when she went missing no one took us serious. And we made it this far and are still getting a slap in the face very time. I guess the only good thing we can do is be happy we found her."
Yashanee Vaughn disappeared in March 2011 and for several months no one knew where she was. Police had reason to believe she had met with foul play but their prime suspect, 16-year-old Parrish Bennette, was not talking.
Bennette was the last person to see Vaughn alive and was indicted on murder charges early on in the investigation after detectives found evidence that pools of blood had soaked through the carpet in his bedroom. Isopropyl and bleach were found as well and fluid inside a vacuum in the home had traces of blood. A picture of the teenage boy holding a gun the day before Vaughn disappeared also surfaced.
Despite the mounting evidence against him, and pleas from Vaughn's family to tell them what happened to her, Bennette kept quiet.
Searches continued and the girl's family kept the case in the public eye by holding rallies, passing out missing person fliers and keeping Vaughn's name in the media. The girl's family and friends hoped to find her alive, even though deep in their hearts they felt something terrible had happened to her.
On July 15, 2011, their fears were confirmed when police found Vaughn's remains buried along a trail at Rocky Butte in Northeast Portland. Although no plea deal was reached, Bennette had finally opened up and told the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office where searchers should look.
Two weeks later, Vaughn was laid to rest at a memorial where family and friends gathered to celebrate her short life. And Bennette remained in jail, awaiting trial.
- March 19, 2011 - Yashanee Vaughn disappears after meeting Parrish Bennette at a Taco Bell on Northeast 82nd Avenue.
- March 21, 2011 - Yashanee's mother, Shaquita Louis, files a missing persons report.
- Sunday, March 27 - Detectives receive information that Bennette admitted to his father that his gun "went off" and hit Yashanee, and that he then disposed of the body. Bennette denies everything when questioned by detectives.
- March 28, 2011 - Bennette's home and his grandparents' home are searched. Detectives notice the floor in Bennette's bedroom has been recently cleaned and there is a steam carpet cleaner there as well. Police notice a slight discoloration in the bedroom carpet and when they pull it up, they find blood soaked in the carpet pad through to the wooden sub floor. Blood is also found on the mattress, walls, near a desk, in the catch basin of the steam cleaner and on some clothing. DNA testing finds it is the blood of Yashanee Vaughn.
- March 31, 2011 - Bennette is arrested.
- April 8, 2011 - Bennette is indicted for murder.
- June 6, 2011 - Detectives recover the gun they believe was used in the murder of Yashanee Vaughn.
- June 24, 2011 - Police outline the evidence against Bennette at a bail hearing, including the blood found in his bedroom and a picture of Bennette holding a gun the day before Vaughn disappeared.
- July 7, 2011 - Judge denies bail for Bennette.
- July 15, 2011 - Police announce they have found human remains at Rocky Butte. The remains are not positively identified as those of Yashanee Vaughn but the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office says Bennette gave them information to lead them to Vaughn's body.
- July 19, 2011 - Police confirm that the remains found at Rocky Butte are those of Yashanee Vaughn.
- July 30, 2011 - Friends and family hold a memorial service for Yashanee Vaughn to lay her to rest.
- December 9, 2012 - Parrish Bennette Jr. is charged with assaulting a corrections officer after officials say he refused to go back to his cell and then attacked a guard.