Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

MMA Fighter Accused of Murder & Mutilation Ruled Fit to Stand Trial

Jarrod Wyatt. Photo: Del Norte County Sheriff.

In the early morning hours of March 21, 2010, a 911 call led police to the Klamath, California home of mixed martial artist Jarrod Wyatt. What they found was a macabre scene: Wyatt’s friend and sparring partner Taylor Powell was dead — his still-beating heart had been ripped from his body by a berserk Wyatt.

The 21-year-old Powell’s body was resting on a couch, his tongue and the skin of his face were removed — as were many of his organs, including the eyes. Police would find Powell’s charred heart in a wood-burning stove.

Police didn’t have far to look for a suspect – they found Wyatt in the home naked and covered in blood. Wyatt allegedly told investigators “I killed him” and admitted to removing his friend’s organs.

Del Norte County prosecutors charged Jarrod Wyatt with murder with allegations of special circumstances (mayhem and torture) in relation to Taylor Powell’s death. If convicted, Wyatt could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

In a preliminary hearing, pathologist Neil Kushner told the court that a broken bone in the victim’s throat proved he had been violently choked in addition to the ghastly real-life game of Operation Wyatt engaged in with Powell. But the most chilling conclusion of Dr. Kushner’s testimony was the revelation that Powell was still alive when his organs were removed — likely with a small pair of scissors found at the scene. The pathologist said, “There was a significant amount of hemorrhaging around soft tissue consistent with him being alive at the time”. The pain, Kushner continued, would have been excruciating.

Wyatt has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Preliminary hearing testimony showed that Wyatt and Powell had drank psychedelic mushroom tea on the night of the murder. Witnesses reported the two men started to explore increasingly crazy conversation topics — that the end of the world was nigh and that they were in the midst of a struggle between God and the Devil. Deputies claim that Wyatt told them he had been fighting the devil the night he killed Powell.

Back in January, Wyatt’s attorney James Fallman petitioned the court for a halting of the legal process after his psychiatric expert Dr. Robert Soper found that Wyatt was unable to comprehend the court proceedings. The court ordered that Wyatt be tested by another set of doctors: Otto Vanoni and Douglas Tucker. Those experts disagreed with Soper, concluding that Wyatt is mentally competent to stand trial.

On Tuesday, Jarrod Wyatt’s defense team was dealt a blow when Judge William Follett reinstated the proceedings, ruling that Wyatt is now capable of understanding the charges against him and participating in his defense. “I look forward to trial and obtaining justice for Taylor Powell and his family,” District Attorney Jon Alexander wrote in an e-mail to the local Times-Standard newspaper. For his part, defense attorney Fallman did not disagree with the ruling: “He’s been better lately,” Fallman conceded.

The murder trial of 27-year-old Jarrod Wyatt is set to begin on September 10, 2012.

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