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Ogden • A judge on Monday ordered prison time for a Roy man who confessed to shooting two women to death in 2008, but not before a doctor and psychologist testified in court that the defendant might have carried out the crimes because he was in withdrawal from abruptly stopping anti-depressants.
Defense attorneys for Jacob D. Ethridge, 33, called the two witnesses prior to Ethridge's sentencing in 2nd District Court, as evidence for the judge to consider before imposing Ethridge's punishment. The two witnesses spoke about how six anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medications Ethridge had been taking could have influenced his behavior in the early-morning hours of July 13, 2008, when he shot 42-year-old Teresa 'Wyoming" Tingey and 25-year-old RosaAnna Maria Cruz within 30 minutes of each other in Ogden.
Douglas Rollins, an expert in pharmacology, and Ronald Houston, a neuropsychologist, both testified that Ethridge could have been experiencing "hallucinations, delirium and general hostility" when he killed his victims as a result of stopping medication, in particular the anti-depressant Effexor, a month before the murders.
Houston said studies have shown that Effexor can cause people to display "depersonalization" or "where you feel unconnected to the world around you." Other side effects of the drug in some people include thinking abnormalities and abnormal judgment, he testified.
Prosecutors rebuked the witnesses' testimony, arguing that Ethridge has a history of aggression that has led to several problems, including his discharge from the Marines.
Defense experts' testimony as well as a tearful apology and pleas for forgiveness from Ethridge didn't sway Judge W. Brent West from handing down a minimum 40-year prison term to Ethridge.
West ordered Ethridge to serve consecutive terms of 20 years to life in prison on each aggravated murder count. Ethridge also received a year in jail for assaulting a guard in a separate case filed after his arrest.
Before West handed down the sentence, forensic psychologist Stephen Golding a rebuttal witness called by prosecutors testified there is not sufficient scientific data to make a link between the drugs and Ethridge's behavior. He said Ethridge likely has a borderline personality disorder, which could have influenced his emotions the day he killed the women. He also testified that Ethridge's history of alcohol abuse could also have played a role in his decisions the night of the murder.
Ethridge told police during his confession that "alcohol gave me the courage" to kill the women, Golding said, citing a police report.
Prosecutors pointed out that Ethridge confessed to the murders and told Ogden police that he had fantasized about killing someone at random for a year prior to the attacks. When an Ogden police detective asked Ethridge if shooting the women fulfilled his fantasy, he replied, "It wasn't what I expected. I didn't expect to feel remorse and I do," Ethridge said, according to police reports.
Ogden police officer John Thomas, who sat with Ethridge at the police station after his confession, said that Ethridge appeared calm and matter-of-fact not agitated from medication. Ethridge only became tearful when speaking about how committing the slayings would mean he can't see his three children anymore.
Family members of Tingey spoke at Monday's hearing about how the woman's violent death has shaken their family. Two of Tingey's brothers talked about the ups and downs the woman experienced before she landed on the streets working as a prostitute, Deputy Weber County Attorney Gary Heward said.
One of the brother's told Ethridge, "I hope there is some good in you," Heward said. "He was not vengeful. He wanted to look Ethridge in the eye."
Family members of Cruz did not attend Monday's hearing, but the judge read aloud a letter written describing their grief.
Ethridge in October pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree felony aggravated murder.
He confessed to Ogden police that he killed Tingey and Cruz.
Ethridge told police he sought out sex following an argument with his girlfriend, who wouldn't allow him to stay overnight at her apartment, according to prior court testimony,
Ethridge asked Tingey for oral sex and accompanied her to an apartment near 26th Avenue and Adams Street, Ogden police detective Tim Scott testified last year.
Once at the apartment, Tingey told Ethridge she couldn't perform the act because of open sores in her mouth. He then shot her in the neck with a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol, he told police, because he thought Tingey "was nasty," police testified.
Ethridge left the apartment and within a half-hour, he encountered Cruz, who propositioned him, Scott said. Cruz performed oral sex on Ethridge behind an apartment complex and when she finished, he shot her in the neck, Scott said.
He then drove to his parents' home in Roy and told them he had killed the women. His father drove him to the police station where he confessed to Ogden police.