Suspect pleads guilty in murder of Grass Valley woman
The man charged with the 2019 murder of a 23-year-old Grass Valley woman pleaded guilty and will spend at least 25 years in prison, authorities said.
Justin Lee Graham-Yaeger, 35, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison in the May 3, 2019, stabbing death of Sierra Bree Clemens at a motel in Medford, Oregon.
Several members of Clemens’ family were in the Jackson County courtroom for the sentencing, with others joining via telephone, Senior Deputy District Attorney Allan E. Smith said in a press release.
“You took the most important thing in my life with your selfish act of violence,” said Sam Clemens, Sierra’s father, in his statement, which he provided to The Union. “You took a 23-year-old girl’s life when she had so much to live for and so many things she had yet to experience. Sierra would do anything for anyone, she was the least selfish person I knew. Sierra would give someone in need her last five dollars, always wanting to help other people. … Sierra was loved by everybody she knew.”
Sierra Clemens’ sister, and their mother, Poppi West, also gave statements to the court.
“She was beautiful and full of life,” West said, adding she wanted Sierra to be remembered properly in her hometown.
“Today marks the 649th day since I found out that my beloved daughter was no longer on this earth,” West said in her statement. “That is 649 days that I have cried for my baby girl, wishing I could do anything to bring her back, go back in time, make her not go on this adventure of hers to Oregon. To just stay home, just stay home with me a few more days.”
West told Graham-Yaeger his actions had “such a domino affect on so many people who knew Sierra. Not just her immediate family, but friends, coworkers and former teachers and classmates. She was loved more than any of us knew and it showed at her Celebration of Life.”
Clemens had been staying at the motel when Graham-Yaeger stabbed her multiple times in the course of robbing her. A charge of aggravated murder was originally sought against Graham-Yaeger because the killing occurred during the commission of a crime. They later revised the charge to first-degree murder after changes in Oregon law significantly limited the criteria for aggravated murder, which made Graham-Yaeger no longer eligible, Smith told The Union at the time.
The law also created new charges of first- and second-degree murder. Someone convicted of first-degree murder would receive a life sentence with the chance of parole after 30 years, while a second-degree murder conviction also would warrant a life sentence, but with the chance of parole after 25 years, Smith said.
Smith offered the five-year difference of second-degree murder as a plea deal that Graham-Yaeger accepted, the Medford Mail Tribune reported. Judge Tim Barnack sentenced Graham-Yaeger to life in prison with a 25-year minimum, lifetime post-prison supervision should he be released, the forfeiture of all weapons involved and restitution for the family’s funeral expenses.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at email@example.com.
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