MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho – An Idaho airman will be sentenced in November after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the stabbing death of his wife last March.
John Valen, 34, was scheduled to go on trial next month. But he entered the surprise plea during a brief appearance in 4th District Court on Sept. 19 before Judge Mike McLaughlin, who will sentence him Nov. 16 at the Elmore County Courthouse.
Valen had been charged with second-degree murder, first-degree arson and two counts of cruelty to animals in the March 5 slaying of Jodi Lynn Valen, 37. The couple had been married just three months. She was stabbed more than 100 times before her body and the couple’s home were set on fire. The couple’s two dogs were also mutilated.
At a preliminary hearing in April, a firefighter testified he encountered John Valen standing outside the bathroom inside the smoke-filled home after fire crews responded. When firefighter Rick Van Meer asked Valen if anyone else was in the house, he said Valen responded: “I killed her.”
In exchange for Valen’s guilty plea on the homicide count, Elmore County Prosecutor Kristina Schindele dropped the arson and animal cruelty charges. She said there were no sentencing agreements made as part of Valen’s plea agreement.
“I’m free to argue whatever I think is reasonable,” she told the Mountain Home News. “I expect they (the defense) will argue a lot of mitigating factors and we can argue aggravating factors.”
Valen faces between 10 years and life in prison for the conviction. Schindele said the family of Jodi Valen, who live in Nampa, had been advised of the plea agreement and had input into the negotiations.
At the time of Jodi Valen’s death, John Valen was a senior airman at Mountain Home Air Force Base who had worked as a weapons loader in the 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron for the past three years. He has since been discharged from the service.
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