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December 7, 2002

Man sentenced to 23 years in slaying

From: Maryville Daily Times, TN - 07 Dec 2002

by Anna C. Irwin
of The Daily Times Staff

A 32-year-old man convicted of second-degree murder in October was sentenced Friday to 23 years in prison.

Douglas Franklin Jordan Jr. will be required to serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Jordan was convicted in Blount County Circuit Court Oct. 18 of killing a 22-year-old deaf woman on March 11, 1998. Jennifer Byerley's body was found alongside Wheeler Road the following morning. She had been hit in the face, stabbed in her abdomen, and, according to autopsy reports, was strangled to death.

Assistant District Attorney General James Brooks recommended a maximum sentence for Jordan, 25 years under Tennessee's sentencing guidelines. He cited as an enhancing factor the ``brutal, terrible, senseless, exceptionally cruel'' way Byerley died. He said she was beaten and stabbed before she was strangled.

``She was aware of her impending death,'' Brooks said.

He also cited Jordan's prior criminal behavior as a factor to support his recommendation for ``the maximum amount of time allowed by law.''

Brooks called a single witness, a young woman who had been Jordan's girlfriend for a time. She testified he hit her in the face and slammed her car door on her one evening after he apparently used a drug of some kind.

Jordan's attorney Jeff Whitt called no witnesses and said he found it very difficult to argue regarding sentencing for ``a man who did not commit a crime.''

He continued to assert his client's innocence but said, since a jury found Jordan guilty, his cooperation in the investigation of Byerley's death should certainly be a mitigating factor in regard to the length of his sentence.

``He opened his entire life to cooperate, in an effort to clear himself,'' Whitt said.

Circuit Court Judge D. Kelly Thomas said he had reviewed a pre-sentence report on Jordan as well as victim impact statements including those provided by Byerley's mother and aunt before hearing arguments from Brooks and Whitt.

He said Jordan faced a sentence ranging between 20 and 25 years. The judge said two enhancing factors cited by Brooks -- prior criminal history and use of deadly force -- caused him to raise the number of years to the maximum of 25 but the mitigating factor cited by Whitt prompted a two-year reduction to 23.

``I've never had a case with this mitigating factor (cooperation with authorities) before,'' Thomas said.

Thomas said he will hear a motion for new trial filed in Jordan's behalf at 9 a.m. Dec. 16. He directed that, instead of immediately being placed in Tennessee Department of Corrections custody, Jordan remain at the Blount County Jail at least until that hearing.

Byerley's aunt came from Ohio to accompany the victim's mother from Bradley County to Friday's hearing in Blount County. She said they both will return for the motion hearing on the 16th.

Elizabeth Byerley adopted Jennifer when she was 18 months old and given up by her birth mother who was unable to cope with the problems of a deaf child.

Copyright © 2002 Horvitz Newspapers.