WAKEFIELD — An imprisoned man convicted of killing a Westerly acquaintance in an alcohol-fueled fight, and later trying to dispose of the body by setting it on fire, asked Washington County Superior Court Judge Melanie Wilk Thunberg on Friday for a sentence reduction.
Jared L. Tefft, 30, of Hope Valley, who last week acted as his own attorney, had pleaded no contest in June to the murder of Peter E. Newman Jr., 44. In a last-minute plea deal, on the day jury selection was scheduled to begin, Tefft, already in jail for two years, accepted a deal that could make him a free man in less than a decade.
Tefft, with the aid of his attorney, Kevin F. Dwyer, of Newport, and the agreement of state prosecutors Mark Trovato and Amy Dodge Murray, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder; the original charge was first-degree murder. Prosecutors said Newman’s family had accepted the plea agreement.
Dwyer said that despite Tefft’s pro se appearance, he advised his client that as part of his plea agreement in June he waived his right to ask for a reduction in his sentence at any time during his 10-year incarceration.
Tefft was sentenced in June to 60 years in prison, 40 to serve, with the remainder suspended with probation retroactive to Jan. 27, 2011, the day after the death of Newman. The two men had been staying in a house at 110 Woody Hill Road. Police said Newman died of smoke inhalation, burns and blunt-force trauma.
Dwyer said it’s often “standard operation” among prisoners to study law in prison and discuss methods of appealing or getting sentences amended or reduced.
A reduction in sentence request is only available to a person who is found guilty by a jury after a trial.
However, Dwyer said he believes that Tefft, with no mandatory minimum with his sentence, could get out before his sentence is exhausted. “It’s a long road and he’d have to hit a home run,” said Dwyer.
Dwyer said he doesn’t believe it was ever Tefft’s intention to kill his friend, adding that what happened afterward — setting fire to the house — was where his client got into serious trouble. Tefft was also convicted of first-degree arson, his sentence running concurrently with his murder conviction sentence. A second charge of arson and a charge of assault with a deadly weapon were dismissed.
Dwyer said a parole board could look at the situation in seven or eight years if Tefft gets what is referred to as good time credits by attending classes at the Adult Correctional Institutions, where he is serving his sentence.