May 16, 2014

First of 7 pleads guilty in connection to gruesome homicide

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The first of seven suspects tied to the gruesome death of an alleged drug dealer and the kidnapping of his girlfriend pleaded guilty Friday.

Joseph Gillespie, 34, will spend the next 13 years in jail if a Spokane County judge accepts a plea deal agreed to by prosecutors. Gillespie pleaded guilty to a single charge of first-degree assault Friday for his role in alleged crimes against David Whitman, whose body was found burned in rural Stevens County after he was shot to death, and Whitman’s girlfriend, who was held captive during his slaying.

Gillespie struck Whitman in the head with a baseball bat at a home near the intersection of Knox Avenue and Maple Street on Feb. 28, according to court documents. Dillon Casteel, Domingo Valdovinos and Benito Baldivinos-Mendoza are also believed to have beaten Whitman with bats and shot him. Valdovinos and Baldovinos-Mendoza then drove Whitman’s body to a field near Tum Tum, where Baldovinos-Mendoza set him on fire and buried him, according to court documents.

The girlfriend was released after several days and contacted police. She told them the dispute appeared to be over money owed for drugs and the alleged theft of methamphetamine.

Gillespie, clad in a jail jumpsuit and chains, made his plea calmly Friday, acknowledging a few supporters in the courtroom. He lived at the residence where the homicide allegedly took place and was originally charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping, as were all the codefendants in the case.

Jailed along with Gillespie were Casteel, Valdovinos and Baldivinos-Mendoza, Jenny Rogers, Christine Morlan and Teresa Geile. All face potential trial dates in June, though those are preliminary schedulings subject to change.

A judge will rule whether to accept Gillespie’s plea agreement at a sentencing hearing tentatively scheduled for August.


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