Jeremy Cuellar asks to withdraw guilty plea in Tyrone Hassel III murder
ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Jeremy Cuellar, the man who previously pleaded guilty to the murder of fellow army soldier Tyrone Hassel III, is now hoping to withdraw that plea.
Cuellar is serving a 65-year second-degree murder sentence after he pleaded guilty to the killing last July, which he now says he was coerced to do.
He had the opportunity to make his case Wednesday, saying his trial attorney, Edwin Johnson, told him he had no chance at trial and a no-contest plea, Cuellar’s original deal, would run the risk of additional charges from the U.S. military and death row.
But, Cuellar then retracted some of those allegations from his signed affidavit.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli pointing out his contradictions.
“I think there’s a lot of inconsistent testimony, his testimony is also inconsistent from the affidavits,” said Pierangeli.
During Cuellar’s sentencing in September, he claimed he wanted to plead guilty because he felt God was telling him to make it right with Tyrone Hassel III’s family.
Hassel’s father says Cuellar’s attempt to withdraw the plea takes away from his sincerity.
“Him entering the guilty plea the first time, it made me feel like he wanted to clear his conscience, but withdrawing it is like a slap in the face,” said Tyrone Hassel Jr., father of Tyrone Hassel III. “It makes you wonder what this guy is thinking.”
And despite the pain of relieving his son’s death, Hassel Jr. said he’s ready for whatever decision the judge makes.
“If you want to withdraw your plea, go ahead, let’s relive it, but this time you’ll get life instead of 60 years,” said Hassel Jr.
And that’s what the other suspect in this case got after going to trial.
Kemia Hassel, Tyrone III’s wife, fought her charges and ended up getting life in prison after being found guilty of premeditated murder.
Still – Hassel Jr. says the most important thing is that his son’s memory doesn’t get lost in the mix.
“He was our hometown hero so I’d like people to remember him that way,” said Hassel Jr.
The judge now has to draft transcripts of Wednesday’s hearing for review and said it will be months before a decision is made on withdrawing the plea.