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Mental illness focal point of sentencing for woman who murdered her father

Crime Watch

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Jessica Conser after being sentenced at the Madison County Courthouse on Monday. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

REXBURG — A woman who murdered her father will spend at least 18 years in prison.

Both the prosecution and defense spent over two hours Monday focused on Jessica Conser’s mental health before a judge sentenced her for murdering her father.

Conser, 35, will spend 18 years to life in prison for killing 66-year-old Matthew Travao on June 5, 2018, while she was having a schizophrenic episode. As part of a plea agreement signed in October, prosecutors reduced the charge to second-degree murder and dismissed a felony weapon enhancement.

According to court documents obtained by EastIdahoNews.com, Conser “fully admitted and confessed” to driving from her home in Montana to her father’s home in the Hibbard area west of Rexburg to kill him. She shot Travao around 9:30 p.m., ran out of the house and drove off. She was caught and arrested later that night near the Idaho/Montana border.

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At the sentencing, Madison County Sheriff’s Office Detective Lt. Curtis Wood detailed a timeline developed for the days leading up to the murder of Travao. His investigation led him to many who interacted with Conser in the days leading up to the murder. Those he spoke with described her actions as strange. She reportedly told people she was self-medicating with CBD oil and didn’t trust the doctors or hospitals.

Wood said at around 6:42 p.m. on June 5, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office was asked by a Butte, Montana police officer to conduct a welfare check at the Hibbard home. Conser had just spoken with the officer, detailing concerns she had about her children who were living with her father in Idaho. Conser later told detectives she thought Travao had killed her daughter.

In body camera video from the Butte officer, which was shown in court Monday, Conser continually spoke about her struggles. She said she needed help with many aspects of her life, and she was in a “crisis scenario.” She also told the officer about her self-diagnosis of multiple sclerosis before leaving the building with the officer.

Conser got into her truck, stopped at a gas station and drove to the house in Hibbard.

Wood said the address given to Madison County Sheriff’s Office was incorrect, and deputies were unable to find the Travao home.

Conser walked into the house with a handgun. She said, “I love you, Daddy,” and shot her father in the face, according to Madison County Prosecutor Sid Brown. Conser’s children and Travao’s wife were in another room of the house at the time of the shooting.

According to court documents, first responders found a large amount of blood and Travao, who was still alive at the time. EMTs arrived and rushed Travao to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center by ambulance. He died at the hospital around 10:10 p.m.

Barbara Travao, his widow, spoke directly to Conser while giving her victim impact statement. She said Conser should be in prison for at least 20 years and didn’t know how she could have killed him.

“You murdered the only man who loved you. … If you can kill your father, you can kill anybody,” Travao said.

Brown asked District Judge Steven Boyce to give Conser a minimum 30-year sentence and questioned how one can deter a mentally ill person from committing a crime. Someone will have to continually inject Conser with medication, he added.

“Mental illness is not an excuse and adds an element of danger to society,” Brown said.

He said she chose not to seek proper mental health treatment, which would have stopped the murder, and giving a harsher sentence would send a message and deterrence to those with a mental illness.

Brown said a longer sentence would say, “If you have a mental illness … do not let it get to this stage.”

Public Defender James Archibald disagreed with Brown. He said Conser can be treated and have a future despite having schizophrenia.

“It’s pretty clear mentally ill people don’t think like you and I,” Archibald told Boyce.

Archibald said society treats those addicted to alcohol and drugs, and the same should be for those with schizophrenia and mental illnesses. He said according to analyses by mental health experts, Conser is a low risk for violent behavior if she continues treatment.

Archibald asked Conser to be sentenced a term of seven years before the possibility of parole.

Conser broke down in tears as she gave a brief statement to Boyce, saying she feels the pain and emotions every day for what happened.

“I took a loving husband and father away from my family including myself,” Conser said. “I love my dad and I miss him.”

In addition to the sentence, Boyce ordered Conser to pay a $1,000 fine. She will not have to reimburse the cost of the public defender. The Idaho Department of Correction will determine the medical supervision required if she’s released on parole.

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