MALONE - A subdued Dale Jarvis Jr. pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter Tuesday in the death of his father, Dale Jarvis Sr.
Appearing before Franklin County Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr., Jarvis Jr. kept his eyes downcast throughout the entire proceeding, answering only, Yes, sir to all questions asked of him by the judge.
Jarvis Jr. was escorted into the courtroom by Franklin County Sheriffs Department personnel Tuesday morning in an orange Franklin County Jail-issued jumper, his hands and feet shackled.
Is it your desire to, and do you, plead guilty to manslaughter in the first degree? Main asked the defendant.
Yes, sir, replied Jarvis Jr., who waived his right to a grand jury proceeding as well as his right to a jury trial.
The plea is accepted, Judge Main said.
Following the plea, the judge directed the Franklin County Probation Department to complete a pre-sentencing evaluation, which will also include a recommended sentence. Jarvis Jr. will have the opportunity to make a statement regarding the specifics of the incident, if he so chooses, during the pre-sentencing investigation. In addition, members of the Jarvis family will have the opportunity to weigh in on a proposed sentence.
First-degree manslaughter carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in state prison. The maximum sentence is 25 years. Sentencing is also likely to include upwards of five years of post-release supervision, a fine not to exceed $5,000, and restitution charges that have yet to be determined. In addition, Jarvis Jr. will be required to submit a DNA sample for the states criminal DNA database.
Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne made it clear in court Tuesday that the district attorneys office has made no commitment in regard to sentencing.
The plea satisfies all charges against the defendant in connection with the death of Mr. Jarvis Sr. A tentative sentencing date has been set for Nov. 13. Meanwhile, Jarvis Jr. remains in Franklin County Jail with no bail set.
On July 23, a state police forensic investigation unit discovered Jarvis Sr.s body buried in a garden behind his 14 White St., Chateaugay home. Prosecutors allege that Jarvis Jr. dug out the five-and-a-half-foot shallow grave with a backhoe in the days or weeks after the killing. Mr. Mr. Champagne said Mr. Jarvis Sr.s personal effects, including his wallet and identification, were found buried at a second dig site on the 14 White St. property buried about 11 feet down.
It was very readily apparent at the autopsy that blunt force trauma was the cause of death, Mr. Champagne said.
In a press conference held after Tuesdays plea, Mr. Champagne recounted Jarvis Jr.s version of events the night of Feb. 21. Jarvis Jr. said he had been playing video games late at night when he and his father got into an argument over the noise the game was making. He said Mr. Jarvis Sr. approached him with what appeared to be a pistol – but what later turned out to be a pellet gun – and a scuffle ensued.
As both men were battling on the ground, Jarvis Jr. said he spotted a piece of a sledgehammer nearby. He grabbed it, he said, jumped up, and hit his father once in the back of the head, killing him.
Mr. Champagne said Tuesday that this version of events is consistent with the evidence in the case.
The district attorney also said that a New York State Police cadaver dog hit on a crawlspace at the 14 White St. residence that is accessible through the floor, meaning it is likely a body had been there at some point. Investigators also recovered a makeshift coffin. In addition, blood was recovered from a wood threshold in the house, on carpet found buried on the property and on clothing found with the body.
Prior to the discovery of the body, Mr. Jarvis Sr. had been the focus of a two-week missing persons investigation that state police officials said was opened after a witness came forward with information that he had been missing for months with no word. Jarvis Jr. previously said that on a night in late February, a group of men came to the house and his father went outside to talk to them. Jarvis Jr. reportedly told relatives his father came back inside, gave him his keys and cell phone and left, saying he was going south.
Mr. Champagne on Tuesday credited the New York State Police violent crime investigation and forensic investigation units for their efforts in the case.
Those teams working together are a godsend to small counties, village, or towns, he said. They specialize in homicides and were critical in putting this case together so quickly. I cannot give these units enough praise or credit for the resolution of this case today.