Accused first-degree murderer Damitre Burch will stand trial as an adult for killing 21-year-old Jadah Willmett on Aug. 2, 2021, in Bayfield.
Sixth Judicial District Chief Judge Jeffrey Wilson announced the decision via writ Monday afternoon.
Burch, 18, faces a maximum of 40 years in prison with the possibility of parole for allegedly stabbing Willmett to death with a butterfly knife. Testimony revealed 65 wounds to Willmett from the attack, though an autopsy revealed a few were not stab wounds but slashes to her hand as she tried to defend herself.
The brutality of the attack was one of the considerations to determine whether Burch would be tried in adult or juvenile court. Burch was 17 at the time of the murder.
Wilson contemplated his decision to have Burch tried in adult court for three days after a four-day reverse transfer hearing. Wilson watched video of the attack, and listened to testimony from law enforcement officers, behavioral specialists and family members.
Had Burch’s case been moved to juvenile court he would have faced a maximum sentence of seven years with the possibility of release at age 21½. Burch, who will be 19 in May, would have served his time at a youths correctional facility until that age when a judge would then decide whether to release him or have him finish the seven-year sentence in adult prison.
Reverse transfer hearings are rare, according to lawyers involved in the case. The hearing was to determine not only whether the decision to have Burch stand trial in adult court would be reversed to have him adjudicated in juvenile court, but also to establish the elements necessary for a first-degree murder charge, and whether Burch would be eligible for release on bail.
Wilson noted in his decision that evidence supported the charge of first-degree murder. He said Burch is not eligible for bail because “proof of the defendant’s guilt is evident” and “the presumption of guilt is great.”
The criteria Wilson used in making his decision is based on 11 determining factors as defined by state statute. A synopsis of five of those factors include: the seriousness of the offense in relation to community safety; level of violence and premeditation; age and maturity of the juvenile as well as home environment; impact on the victim; and whether a deadly weapon was used.
According to testimony presented during the reverse transfer hearing, Burch dressed in all black and covered his face in a black mask and bandanna before leaving his home where he lived with his father via a bedroom window and then walked to the Bayfield Speedway at 650 Buck Highway. Burch collected items and placed them on the counter before going behind the counter and allegedly stabbing Willmett to death about 1:30 a.m.
Police arrived on scene as Burch walked out the front doors of the Speedway. He was covered in the victim’s blood when he was arrested and taken to La Plata County Jail.
The case is set for arraignment April 18.