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Man pleads guilty to fatally stabbing Bayfield Speedway clerk

Damitre Burch faces 35 years in prison for killing Jadah Willmett, 21
Damitre Burch, who fatally stabbed Jadah Willmett at the Speedway convenience store in Bayfield in 2021, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

A man who fatally stabbed the clerk of a Bayfield Speedway in August 2021 pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday, and is likely to face 35 years in prison under the terms of a plea agreement.

Damitre Burch was 17 on the night of Aug. 2, 2021, when he entered the store, placed some items at the check stand, went behind the counter and stabbed 21-year-old Jadah Willmett to death. The murder was caught on tape by security cameras and Burch was arrested outside the store with a knife, covered in dried blood.

He was initially charged with first-degree murder and would have been eligible for parole after serving 40 years of a life sentence if convicted.

In the courtroom of 6th Judicial District Court Chief Judge Jeffrey Wilson on Monday, Burch, now 20, appeared in an orange jail jumpsuit, his hands shackled before him and cuffed to a belly chain. A family member waved to him as he entered the courtroom.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Burch pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder, a crime for which he could face 16 to 48 years in prison. If Wilson accepts the plea, Burch will serve 35 years, to be followed by five years on parole.

Burch was initially deemed incompetent to stand trial, before then-Judge Todd Norvell reversed the decision and found him competent to assist in his own defense. Wilson decided that Burch would face charges as an adult.

During a bail hearing in July 2023, Burch’s attorney, John Moran, argued that his client has “a third or fourth grade appreciation of the world” and perceived Farmington as a distant and “exotic” location.

The terms of the plea agreement were read to him, Burch told Wilson in court Monday. When asked if he had mental health problems that impacted his ability to think clearly, Burch responded, “I don’t know.”

He also appeared to get confused when Wilson read the technical elements of the charge to him.

Willmett’s family was present in the courtroom as well and chose not speak until sentencing.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 18.

rschafir@durangoherald.com

This story has been updated to reflect that Burch would have been sentenced to life in prison but eligible for parole after 40 years if he had been convicted of first-degree murder.



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