Defense claim bounty hunting, not drug deal gone awry, in Lynden shooting case

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 17, 2012 

Jeremiah Winchester was actually attempting some freelance bounty hunting the night his son was killed last fall in Lynden, his defense argued this week during his trial.

Winchester's attorney, Michael Brodsky, said his client doesn't have a bail bond recovery license, but on the night of Nov. 22, Winchester was attempting to bring in Salvador Rodriguez, whom he suspected was planning to jump bail.

The prosecutor has alleged that on Nov. 22, Winchester set up a drug deal with Rodriguez at a Lynden house with plans of robbing the dealer, while the defense claims that the drug deal was just a pretext to get Rodriguez to the house. When Rodriguez arrived with his younger brother, Oscar, and Andrew Medina to make the deal, things went wrong quickly. Winchester was shot in the face, and his son, Jesse Winchester, 22, was shot and killed.

Jeremiah Winchester has been charged with one count of first-degree attempted robbery, two counts of attempted drug possession - heroin and methamphetamine - and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. Winchester's co-defendant, Johnny Arellano, is facing only the robbery charge, after the court dismissed the drug charges against him once the prosecution rested its case.

Winchester's defense argued that, rather than rob Rodriguez, Winchester intended to apprehend him, after hearing that he was going to leave the country before his next court date.

Defense witness Greg Peterson, a licensed bail bond recovery agent, said Winchester has helped him several times to find and apprehend people out on bail who missed court dates. Peterson would get information from a bail bonding company, then contact Winchester to see if he knew the people Peterson was looking for.

Peterson described Winchester's role as more of an informant, not someone who had a contract with a bond company and could legally go out, grab people and arrest them. On the night of Nov. 22, Rodriguez wasn't on Peterson's radar screen, he said. Though bond companies can revoke a bond if they suspect someone is planning on jumping bail, Peterson said that a contract would be required to bring that person in.

Closing arguments in the case are set to begin Wednesday, followed by jury deliberations.

Reach ZOE FRALEY atzoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com or call 756-2803.

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