For up to 20 years, due to mental state; up to 10 years could be in prison)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A Bend woman who shot and killed her 7-year-old severely disabled son in 2018 pleaded guilty to murder Monday and was sentenced to up to 20 years in the Oregon State Hospital, including up to 10 years in prison, due to her "extreme emotional state" at the time of the crime
Tashina Aleine Jordan, now 30, admitted killing her son, Mason in the courtroom of Deschutes County Circuit Judge Wells Ashby. He then reduced the conviction to first-degree manslaughter, as state law directs, since Jordan “was under the influence of an extreme emotional disturbance at the time of her act,” District Attorney John Hummel said.
“Her extreme emotional state was the result of being a single mother to Mason, who was a child living with significant developmental disabilities, combined with her documented mental health difficulties,” Hummel said.
Jordan pleaded guilty to murder -- a charge reduced from aggravated murder due to a recent change in state law -- and also pleaded guilty except for insanity to a new charge of first-degree assault, filed only last Wednesday in connection with the plea negotiations.
“Doctors diagnosed Jordan with major depression with psychotic features and offered the opinion that she met the legal definition for Oregon’s criminal insanity defense at the time of the offense,” the district attorney said.
Ashby sentenced Jordan to 10 years in prison on the manslaughter conviction, and to a 20-year Oregon State Hospital commitment on the first-degree assault charge.
Due to physical distancing requirements, many watched Monday's proceedings by video from an "overflow" room in the courthouse.
Defense attorneys acknowledged the tragic nature of what occurred and said that by all accounts, Jordan had been a devoted, loving mother to her son, until she reached a breaking point.
The sole witness, who testified by phone, was Alexander Duncan, a clinical forensics psychologist, who reviewed Jordan’s records in April and interviewed her for two hours. He said he found a history of mental illness and that she was “suffering from extreme emotional disturbance” at the time of the incident.
Duncan said it was very obvious Jordan had become more acutely stressed in the weeks leading up to Mason’s killing.
Jordan, who became emotional and cried during the proceedings, declined when given a chance to speak before Ashby handed down the sentence.
“This was a very tragic case,” the judge said, “and this is a reasonable outcome.”
He said it’s clear Jordan suffers from mental health issues, and has for some time.
Afterward, Hummel issued this statement:
“By all accounts, Mason Jordan was a loving, caring, and precious child. All who encountered him were better for it. His mother loved him with all her heart, until she broke.
"Numerous single mothers of children with disabilities contacted me to share their stories of the immense stress, loneliness, and despair they experience on a daily basis.
"Other parents of children living with disabilities contacted me to say that it is difficult raising their children, but their child’s health should not be an excuse for murder."
“At the end of the day, the murder of a child is never justified, while the emotional state of a defendant is always relevant. The resolution of Ms. Jordan’s case holds her accountable, honors Mason’s life, and reflects the mental state she was in at the time of the crime. Justice was done,” Hummel concluded
Last December, Hummel announced prosecutors would not seek the death penalty against Jordan, saying, "I determined her conduct did not warrant a sentence of death."
Defense attorney Thaddeus Betz then asked for a settlement conference to discuss a possible plea deal. A trial had been scheduled for October 2020.
Jordan was the primary caretaker of her son, who suffered brain bleeds as an infant and lapsed into a coma before reawakening, leaving him with several serious conditions, including cerebral palsy. He could not feed, bathe or dress himself, used a wheelchair and required full-time care.
On Aug. 20, 2018, Jordan's mother returned to the home on Mount Hope Lane she shared with her daughter and grandson, finding Mason dead in his bed, shot in the forehead.
She found Tashina Jordan on the bathroom floor, having tried to kill herself -- first with the same gun, but it jammed, investigators said -- and then by taking more than 200 pills. She survived after a week at St. Charles Bend, was arrested at the hospital and has been held without bail at the county jail since then.
Deputy District Attorney Kandy Gies told NewsChannel 21 a complex case became even mores so last year, when Oregon lawmakers changed the definition of aggravated murder, a year after Jordan’s indictment on that charge. The new law redefined the elements of aggravated murder, requiring premeditation, so what was charged in the indictment no longer applied.
“We can’t go back to a grand jury and charge for an offense that wasn’t on the books at the time the crime was committed,” Gies said, so as a result, she instead faced an intentional murder charge. The finding of “extreme emotional disturbance” reduces that charge to first-degree manslaughter.
Because first-degree assault is a Class A felony, with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, her plea of guilty except for insanity makes it a maximum 20-year commitment to the state Psychiatric Review Board.
Under the terms of the sentence, Gies said, Jordan is immediately committed to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, where her length of stay depends on their diagnosis of her mental state.
“If the state hospital were to keep her for 11 years, she would never go to prison,” Gies said. “If they were to keep her for just two years, for example, she would go to prison for eight years.”