Geoff Liesik, Geoff Liesik, Pool
VERNAL — There had never been any question about who killed Mark "Joe" Bedwell.
William Feldmiller did it. Even his own attorney didn't dispute that fact.
After nearly six hours of deliberation Wednesday, a jury of six men and two women decided that the killing was intentional and found Feldmiller guilty of murder, a first-degree felony.
Defense attorney Michael Humiston, who declined to comment after the verdict, argued throughout the trial that his client either acted in self-defense after Bedwell hit him with a deer antler or was too drunk to understand what he was doing when he stabbed his roommate three times in the chest.
"They were plastered," Humiston said during closing arguments Wednesday. "It wasn't murder."
Tests show Bedwell, 46, had a blood-alcohol content somewhere between 0.28 and 0.35 at the time of his death. Feldmiller's blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.22 after the stabbing. A person with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 is considered legally impaired in Utah.
Cindy Carr testified that Feldmiller and Bedwell were already drunk when she arrived at their trailer home on the night of Jan. 20. The men were engaged in a profanity-laden argument, with Feldmiller complaining that Bedwell didn't appreciate his contributions to the household, Carr said.
Bedwell responded by ordering Feldmiller to get out, and the bickering escalated toward physical violence, the woman said.
Carr testified that she saw Feldmiller begin to draw a knife from a sheath on his belt and advance toward Bedwell, who was recovering from hip surgery and suffering from knee and ankle problems.
Bedwell, she said, reached for a deer antler on a nearby table and tried to stand. That's when Carr said she chose to flee the home.
Moments later, Feldmiller called dispatchers to report that he'd had "an altercation" with his roommate and that he "did it in self defense."
Officers arrived at a trailer home at 65 E. 400 North. They found Bedwell just inside the front door, bleeding from three stab wounds. He was taken to the hospital where he died a short time later.
At least four Vernal police officers and one former Utah Highway Patrol trooper testified that Feldmiller confessed almost immediately to stabbing Bedwell. Vernal police detective Shawn Lewis interviewed Feldmiller three times. He said the man claimed he attacked Bedwell because his insults had "pushed his big red button."
Humiston, who presented no witnesses during the three-day jury trial, said his client didn't intend to stab Bedwell when he walked toward him with the knife, he "just wanted to shut him up." The attorney told the jury that Bedwell hit Feldmiller in the head with the antler with so much force it broke into two pieces.
"(Feldmiller) went berserk," Humiston said. "He was in a rage — a blind rage, not an intentional rage."
Police did recover two pieces of deer antler from the home. One was found under Bedwell's body. The other was under a kitchen counter. And Feldmiller did have two wounds to the right side of his head and neck, though he could never explain to investigators how he'd received the injuries.
Uintah County prosecutor Greg Lamb told the jury that Feldmiller's inability to recall how he'd been injured wasn't due to his level of intoxication or because he'd "blacked out" during the altercation.
"He was concentrating on stabbing the victim three times," Lamb said. "That's why he doesn't remember."
The prosecutor, seeking to further discredit the defense's "too drunk" argument, told jurors that Feldmiller was conscious enough of what he was doing that "when his knife hit bone, he pulled it out and shoved it in harder, cutting through the bone and into (Bedwell's) heart."
"He wasn't too drunk to do that," Lamb said.
Mark Scott, a lifelong friend of Bedwell's who was in court when the guilty verdict was read, called it "a relief."
"If (Feldmiller) had walked out of here today, I would have been floored," Scott said. "I'd never be able to understand anything like that."
He described Bedwell as someone who was larger than life, a friend to everybody, with a knack for telling great stories.
"We could do the same thing together and his story, everybody would fall down laughing," Scott recalled. "My story, everybody would say, 'Really?'
"I still miss him," he added.
Feldmiller is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 15 to a mandatory term of 15 years to life in prison.
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