News and Press Releases

Man Attempted to Make His Girlfriend’s Death Look like Suicide

June 23, 2006

WESLEY VERNON JEFFERSON, Sr., 21, of Tulalip, Washington was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to ten years in prison and three years of supervised release for Voluntary Manslaughter. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik told him, “you know that you have done something that is almost unspeakably horrible.”

JEFFERSON pleaded guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter on January 27, 2006. According to documents filed in the case, on the evening of December 21, 2004, JEFFERSON got into a fight with 23-year-old Sophia Solomon, a Tulalip tribal member and the mother of his three children. The woman jumped from the van and ran into the woods near Silver Village on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. JEFFERSON followed and strangled Solomon to death. He then recruited his cousin to try to make the death appear to be a suicide. Using rope, the men hung the victim from a tree. The two men then went all around the reservation asking people if they had seen Solomon and stating that they were worried she was suicidal. Solomon was found hanging the next day and her death was originally investigated as a suicide. When interviewed, JEFFERSON told officers that he had last seen the victim the previous afternoon when she told him she was going to commit suicide.

In April 2005, the Tulalip Police began to hear rumors that the death was not a suicide. Detectives for the Tulalip Police re-interviewed JEFFERSON, who gave a conflicting statement about when he had last seen the victim. In all, JEFFERSON gave three different statements about the death. The investigation was reopened with assistance from the FBI. However, valuable evidence from the crime scene had never been collected since the death was believed to be a suicide. Government prosecutors agreed to let JEFFERSON plead guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter with an agreed upon ten year prison term – the maximum under the law.

In asking the court for the lengthy sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Tessa Gorman detailed how the staged suicide compounded the family’s pain over Solomon’s death. Gorman also noted that the victim was an inspirational member of the Tulalip tribe and a devoted mother.

“It is true that this case is an awful tragedy. Sophia Solomon, a woman who gave “hope and courage” to her friends and family, is gone. The Tulalip Tribal community has lost an active, passionate member. And, perhaps most devastating, her young children no longer have their mother,” Gorman wrote in her sentencing memorandum to the court.

Judge Lasnik noted that although the maximum allowable sentence was ten years, “part of me wishes I could double, triple or quadruple the sentence.”

Solomon’s mother, sister, uncle and aunt spoke in court about the pain JEFFERSON had caused. “He took my child, my baby,” Solomon’s mother said, “she left this world fighting for her life.”

The case was investigated by the Tulalip Tribal Police and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tessa Gorman.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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