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Man arrested for murder allegedly used bleach to clean up the scene

Crime Watch

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RIGBY — The man arrested for first-degree murder Tuesday allegedly tried to clean up the scene with bleach and refused to talk with investigators.

Investigators say Jesse Gentle, 21, shot and killed Merle Jay Sorensen, 72, at a Jefferson County home early Tuesday morning. Both men are from Idaho Falls. An affidavit of probable cause obtained by lays out the details of the shooting according to a witness, who is related to Gentle.

The witness told detectives that Gentle arrived at her house Friday and stayed the entire weekend. On Saturday, she said she saw Gentle hold a .22 caliber pistol to his head in her home bathroom.

“I’m wondering who I use this on, maybe myself?” Gentle said, according to the witness.

The alleged comments continued with the witness saying Gentle said that “he has to kill five lives” two times. The witness called Gentle a “demon” and said he used syringes to inject an unknown substance into his arms.

Sorensen, a friend of the witness for over 30 years, arrived at the house Sunday evening in a taxi. The witness said Sorensen planned to stay for a couple of nights.

Throughout Monday, the three smoked marijuana, according to the witness. Around midnight Tuesday, the witness said she went to sleep in a house on the property. Shortly after falling asleep, the witness said Gentle and Sorensen came into the house and woke her up wanting to party. Being woken up agitated the witness and she told both men to go back to their rooms. Sorensen reportedly struggled to walk, so the witness helped him into a covered patio where Sorensen slept on a futon.

Minutes later, the witness said Gentle came back to the house and took a shotgun. The witness said she did not think anything of it because she was sleepy. Five to 15 minutes later, the witness heard two gunshots. The witness then walked to the covered patio and Gentle opened the door.

When she asked Gentle why he was shooting in her house, he allegedly “told her he was shooting a mouse.” The witness yelled at Gentle for shooting in her house. She then turned and saw Sorensen kneeling in front of a futon with blood splatter on the back of his shirt.

The witness asked what was wrong with Sorensen and Gentle responded that the man had a nose bleed. The witness then nudged Sorensen and it became apparent that he was dead.

“(The witness) yelled out, ‘You killed my friend, you killed my friend,'” the probable cause reads. “Jesse stated, ‘We’ll take care of it.'”

The witness called 911 and Jefferson County Sheriff deputies arrived around 2 a.m. After speaking with the witness, detectives went to another room to speak with Gentle. Court documents say Gentle appeared very upset and agitated. As soon as investigators entered the room, Gentle asked for a lawyer and refused to speak.

Deputies went to take Gentle to jail, which made him more upset. Investigators wrote Gentle began growling, yelled and became combative. At one point, he tried to bite one of the deputies taking him to jail.

Detectives found Sorensen’s body in the bathroom. Idaho State Police crime scene investigators arrived and found bloody clothes soaked with bleach and water. An empty gallon bottle of bleach, two black shoes and a .22 caliber revolver were found on the bed Gentle used.

“With my training and experience, it appears Jesse was trying to clean up the crime scene,” the detective writes in the probable cause.

Court documents do not say what weapon investigators believe Gentle allegedly used to shoot and kill Sorensen.

An autopsy is scheduled for Sorensen. Most of Idaho’s autopsies are performed in Ada County since most counties do not have their own medical examiner.

Gentle is being held in the Jefferson County Jail on $750,000 bail. He is expected to make his initial appearance over Zoom at 1 p.m. Wednesday before Magistrate Judge Robert Crowley. At this hearing, Crowley will read Gentle his charge and schedule a preliminary hearing.

Although Gentle is charged with murder, it does not necessarily mean he committed it. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In Idaho, first-degree is punishable by death. Jefferson County Prosecutor Paul Butikofer will have to file a document stating his intent to seek or not seek the death penalty. If the death penalty is not sought, if convicted, Gentle would be required to spend at least 10-years to life in prison, according to Idaho law.