Accessory in murder sentenced

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SANDPOINT — A Bonner County woman who helped conceal the body of a murder victim out of fear and misguided devotion to her husband was sentenced Monday to two years in prison.

“I’m fully aware of what I did and I’m prepared to take full responsibility,” Jennifer Dunnagan Thrasher said before 1st District Judge Steve Verby imposed the sentence, which will run concurrently with a 24-month sentence she received in an unrelated burglary case.

Thrasher, 23, was charged as an accessory to the first-degree murder of Michael Wyatt Smith after admitting that she concealed the body of Michael Wyatt Smith in a makeshift grave in the remote Upper Pack River Valley.

Her now-estranged husband, Austin Blake Thrasher, 20, is accused of shooting Smith to death last fall.

Smith, a 19-year-old who was living in Hope, was reported missing and his killing was kept under wraps until January, when the couple and Christopher Robin Garlin were arrested in connection with a Ponderay pawn shop burglary.

While in custody, Garlin, also 19, allegedly disclosed that he witnessed Austin Thrasher shoot Smith to death with a handgun outside Thrasher’s Cocolalla home. A motive for the killing, according to court documents, stemmed from a romantic rivalry over a 16-year-old girl.

Jennifer Thrasher testified at a preliminary hearing that she was unaware her husband intended to kill Smith and learned of the crime when he called her asking for help with disposing of Smith’s body.

Michael G. Palmer, Jennifer Thrasher’s defense counsel, said his client withheld knowledge of Smith’s murder out of a mixture of fear and irrational devotion to her husband.

“She’s come to recognize that,” Palmer said.

Jennifer Thrasher ultimately entered into a plea agreement which recommended a two-year prison term to run simultaneously with her incarceration on federal charge for the burglary of Pawn Now.

Given her lack of involvement in the killing itself, Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall said the duration of the fixed sentence was apt. “Two years determinate is a fair sentence for what she did,” said Marshall, adding that she is a cooperating witness in the case against her husband.

Verby agreed to adopt the terms of the plea agreement but did not elaborate.

Garlin, who was also charged with accessory to murder, entered a plea earlier this month and awaits sentencing. His sentencing in connection with the Pawn Now heist is pending in U.S. District Court.

First-degree murder proceedings against Austin Thrasher are on hold due to reported symptoms of delusion and questions about his capacity to assist in his own defense. However, Marshall said outside court that he expects Austin Thrasher to be deemed fit to proceed in the near future.

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