June 11, 2009 in City

Man pleads guilty in killing

Victim was trying to break up fight outside downtown Spokane tavern
Thomas Clouse tomc@spokesman.com, (509) 459-5495
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Just as his murder trial was set to begin, Matthew R. Jones pleaded guilty Wednesday 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 in which Jones, 25, faced one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder in connection with 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.

Jones pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and drive-by shooting. Deputy Prosecutor Eugene Cruz said he would seek the low end of the sentencing range, about 10 years in prison, at Jones’ sentencing July 6 before Superior Court Judge Michael Price.

Ridgely’s older sister, Jessica Streufert, said her family was pleased with the plea agreement.

Her brother “was just being a good guy and was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Streufert said. “He was just trying to help.”

According to police reports, a fight had erupted outside the tavern, and Ridgely and his friends tried to intervene on behalf of a person who was being severely beaten.

Jones also witnessed the fight and said he pulled out a gun and fired it in the air to try to stop it. Espinoza then took the gun and began firing into the crowd, according to police, striking Ridgely in the chest. Bullets also hit Ryan Jackson and Michelle Wilcox, who were treated at a hospital and released.

Jones’ mother, Cheri Jones, disagreed with her son’s decision to take the plea. She 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, weeping. “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 a sentence of 10 years would fit 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.

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