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Joda Cain gets 10-year prison term in great-grandmother's slaying

Defendant avoided a longer term because a jury convicted him of manslaughter instead of murder in Jacqueline Bell's death

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Joda CainA Washington County Circuit Court judge said he wanted Joda Cain to spend much longer than a decade in custody for his role in the “outrageous” and “horrendous” killing of the teenager's great-grandmother, but Oregon’s sentencing law wouldn’t allow him to do it.

Judge Rick Knapp on Tuesday sentenced the 19-year-old to 10 years in prison for his conviction of manslaughter in the Oct. 5, 2013, death of Jacqueline Bell in her Cedar Mill home.

“I was thinking 15 to 20 years, but I couldn’t get there,” Knapp said. “I can’t get out from under Measure 11. I looked at it, I wanted to, but I didn’t have a choice.”

A jury on Sept. 25 convicted Cain of two counts of manslaughter but acquitted him of aggravated and felony murder charges after Cain placed the primary blame on his cousin, Micus Ward, a co-defendant in Bell’s homicide. Ward and the victim were not related.

TIMES PHOTO: ERIC APALATEGUI - Alex Bell answers questions under the glare of TV cameras after his grandson, Joda Bell, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the beating death of Jacqueline Bell, Alex Bell's mother.“I was very disappointed with the jury” for acquitting Cain on the more serious charges, Alex Bell, Jacqueline Bell’s son and Cain’s grandfather, said after the hearing. “I feel like they dropped the ball.”

A conviction on those murder counts would have allowed Knapp to impose a term of up to life in prison for Cain, who was 17 at the time of Bell’s death but was prosecuted as an adult.

Cain’s lead attorney, Conor Huseby, sought a lighter sentence of up to five years in prison, based on other sentencing guidelines.

Knapp, a former prosecutor, quickly dismissed the argument for leniency in favor of imposing the longest sentence available for Cain’s convictions for manslaughter, which were rolled into a single count for sentencing purposes.

Knapp also declined Huseby’s request to put Cain in the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority but said placement ultimately would be up to the state Department of Corrections.

Investigators said Cain and Ward beat Bell to death with a sledgehammer and fled in her car eastward to their hometown of Kansas City, Mo., before being stopped by police in eastern Oregon.

Ward, now 21, also faces charges of aggravated murder. He has yet to face trial due to competency issues, which soon will be re-evaluated in court.

Family members said Bell brought Cain from Kansas City to live with her, with the intention of helping him straighten out and build a better life.

Police said Cain used Bell’s credit card to buy airfare for Ward to travel from Kansas City to Oregon the day before the woman was killed.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jacqueline BellAlex Bell was one of three people to speak to Knapp before the sentencing. He said Cain – whose name he refused to utter – didn’t show remorse during or after his mother’s death.

“The jury decided the verdict and God will take it from there,” he said to Knapp. “I still find it hard to take.”

Another speaker, James Pestillo, likened Bell’s murder to a “mass casualty” murder akin to the shooting deaths at Umpqua Community College last week.

“I our case we had one death and hundreds ‘injured,’” he said. “Everyone who knew and loved her is a victim. A big part of me died that year.”

Dolores Chenoweth, Bell’s longtime friend, said Cain’s sentence to prison takes him to “the one place that his great-grandmother (Jacqueline Bell) fought so hard to prevent him from going to.”

Cain will still be in his 20s when he is released to three years of post-prison supervision, and Chenoweth said she hoped he would yet “do something decent with his life.”

Cain also was sentenced to pay $7,525 in restitution and could be ordered to help pay a potentially much larger tab for his defense costs. The financial details were still being calculated, and Knapp set a final decision for Nov. 2.

Defense attorney Huseby said he advised the defendant not to make a statement during the brief sentencing hearing, and the handcuffed Cain sat quietly throughout.

The attorney had a different opinion than Bell’s loved ones about his client’s state of mind.

“I’ve spent two years with Mr. Cain,” Huseby said in court. “He was incredibly remorseful about this case. He will regret for the rest of his life the actions he took that led to this murder.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF KOIN 6 - Joda Cain in an undated photo from 2013. He was convicted last month of manslaughter in the October 2013 killing of his great-grandmother, Jacqueline Bell. He was sentenced Oct. 6 to a 10-year prison term.

By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
email: eapalategui@commnewspapers.com
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