Just as his murder trial was set to begin, Matthew R. Jones pleaded guilty in connection with a shooting on Halloween night that killed a 22-year-old man who was trying to break up a fight outside The Blvd Tavern in downtown Spokane.
A jury had already been selected to hear the case today in which Jones, 25, faced one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder in connection to the Nov. 1 shooting. Two people were injured and 22-year-old Joshua Ridgely was killed outside the tavern at 333 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. Another suspect, 24-year-old Jonathan Espinoza, is scheduled for trial in September.
Deputy Prosecutor Eugene Cruz and Assistant Public Defender Jeff Compton delayed the start of Jones’ trial as they got word that Jones may accept a plea agreement.
After more than an hour of discussions, Jones pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and drive-by shooting. Cruz said he would seek the low end of the sentencing range, or about 10 years in prison, at the sentencing on July 6 before Superior Court Judge Michael Price.
Ridgely’s older sister, Jessica Streufert, said her family was pleased with the plea agreement.
“He was just being a good guy and was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Streufert said of her brother. “He was just trying to help.”
According to police reports, a fight had erupted outside of the tavern and Ridgely and his friends tried to intervene on behalf of a person who was taking a severe beating.
Jones also witnessed the fight and said he pulled a gun and fired it in the air to stop the same fight. However, Espinoza then took the gun and began firing into the crowd, striking Ridgely in the chest. Bullets also hit Ryan Jackson and Michelle Wilcox, who were treated at a local hospital that night and released.
Jones’ mother, Cheri Jones, didn’t agree with her son taking the plea. She acknowledged that her son brought the gun to the fight but said he never intended for anyone to get hurt.
Matthew Jones took the plea “because he was scared he was going to get life in prison,” she said as she cried. “He has three children at home. They keep asking me where their dad’s at. I don’t know what to tell them. He was trying to stop the fight.”
Streufert said the expected sentence of 10 years fits the crime.
“There are consequences for your actions whether you wanted to hurt anybody or not,” she said.
If there is a lesson in her brother’s death, Streufert said, it’s that it is honorable to step away from a situation and let others handle it.
“It doesn’t make you a bad person to turn away… and call the cops,” she said.