OREGON CITY, Ore. – Jonathan Holt pleaded guilty and received a life sentence on Monday for charges related to the murder of 21-year-old Whitney Heichel in October.
Members of Heichel's family were in the courtroom Monday. Holt lived in the same apartment complex as Heichel and her husband, Clint, and was a member of their church.
"I miss her tremendously. My life has been ripped apart and turned upside down thanks to your lack of self-control and selfishness. But know this. I will see her again," Clint Heichel told Holt. "You will not."
Holt pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated murder, one count of first-degree kidnapping and two counts of first-degree robbery. He will serve life without the possibility of parole.
"I want to say that I'm sorry, but at the same time I know that doesn't mean anything," Holt said in court
Police say Holt waited outside Heichel’s apartment the morning of Oct. 16, 2012, then talked her into giving him a ride on the way to her job at Starbucks. He then ordered her at gunpoint to drive him to Rosyln Lake in Clackamas County, where he sexually assaulted her and shot her, investigators said.
"You are weak. You are ugly. You're a coward," Heichel's sister Chelsea Sauer said to Holt in court.
Though it’s unclear why Holt decided to change his plea, a legal analyst said it’s likely because Holt was potentially facing the death penalty and his lawyers decided prosecutors have a solid case. Court documents show Holt confessed to the crime, but still planned to plead not guilty until last month.
Prosecutors might have worked out the agreement to save Heichel’s family from the ordeal of a trial.
The judge sentencing Holt said this was one of the rare cases where he wished he could hand down a more severe punishment for the crime, like the death penalty, but he accepted the plea deal.
Clint Heichel said he didn't want Holt to be put to death. He said after the hearing that it's now in God's hands.
Whitney Heichel's mother, Lorilei Ritmiller, said after the hearing that she's staying strong through her faith. She even spent the holiday weekend with Holt's family and ex-wife, whom she said were just as much victims as anyone else in this case.