Lafayette man sentenced to 60 years for 2019 murder

Talmadge Jasper receiving his sentence Tuesday for the 2019 murder of Ryan Martin

Posted: Feb 23, 2021 4:15 PM
Updated: Feb 23, 2021 10:52 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Twenty-year-old Talmadge Jasper will serve 60 years in the Department of Corrections for murdering Ryan Martin in May of 2019. Martin’s body was found with blunt force trauma in a closet in Jasper’s Pheasant Run apartment.

As we previously reported, court documents said that on May 23rd, Lafayette police were called to a home on Kenosha Court for a residential entry complaint.

Police said Jasper was the suspect of the residential entry and he had a valid protection order in place prohibiting him from contacting the woman who lives there. Investigators determined an adult male, Ryan Martin, who lived at the home was missing.
Later that night, a search warrant was served at Jasper’s apartment where the body of Ryan Martin was found in a closet. They also found couch cushions that appeared to be covered with blood stains.

Jasper was 18 at the time of the murder and is now 20 years old. He entered into a guilty plea agreement in August of 2020.
As he walked into the courtroom in handcuffs on Tuesday, his mother made sure to be front and center to tell him how much she loved and supported him. A message she continued to share with him any chance she got. As they waited for the hearing to start, anytime she made eye contact with him, she would make a heart with her hands or do a deep breath motion to try and remind him to stay calm.

The courtroom was as full as social distancing would allow. Seven members of Martin’s family sat in the jury box while 13 people supporting Jasper sat in the gallery seating.

Jasper’s mother, Ashley Wilson, gave a testimony first. She described her son as someone who is loving, cares deeply and would stand up for his friends at school against bullies. She said he participated in the academic bowl growing up and volunteered at the local nursing home. She remembered he took a mission trip to Jamaica to help build a home for a single mother. She said he was involved in their church, the Delphi United Methodist Church.

Wilson had begun to get choked up and Jasper had also begun to sniffle from behind his white mask.

She also told the court about the life long struggles Jasper has had with mental health. She said she has always had him see multiple therapists and that her son has to fight against the darkness everyday, and sometimes loses that fight. She said Jasper has become frightened, confused, angry and paranoid as a result of this incident, and that this is not who he is deep down.

“My heart breaks for everyone involved,” she said, looking forward at Martin’s family members in the jury box. She said she has faith that her true son is still inside.

She expressed her remorse for Martin’s family, saying it is devastating that they have lost a father, son and brother.

She said her son needs help and that rehabilitation is possible. She said that while they will be separated by bars, Jasper’s family will remain united in the fight for his soul. She asked Judge Steven Meyer to give him a punishment that would also include help.

She concluded by saying she will continue to pray every day and night for the Martin family and for her son.

Wilson was the only character witness called to testify on behalf of Jasper, though his lawyer reminded the court that there were other letters of support submitted.

Members of Ryan’s family got their chance to speak next. Ryan’s father went first. He started by thanking the legal team for their efforts. He said Tuesday was for Ryan’s voice to finally be heard, and that the day was about justice for his death.

He talked about how much Ryan loved his young daughter, Jocelyn. He said Ryan read every book he could about how to be a good father. He described Ryan as the life of the party, someone who believed in Christ, someone with a unique sense of humor, a kind heart, loved life and had the best life. He reminded the court that Ryan was 29 years old when he was killed.

He finished by saying to Ryan that the family loved him, missed him and would meet him again someday soon in Heaven.

Ryan’s sister, Jennifer, spoke next. She began by describing an image she can’t get out of her head: her brother lying cold and alone in the coroner’s office. She said all she wanted to do was be with him in that moment to comfort him and be with him.

She described her brother as silly yet generous. She remembered when he dressed up as Austin Powers for Halloween one year, how he could sleep through anything, how he wanted to travel and was eager to learn. She said she loved watching Ryan become a father to Jocelyn.

She remembered him holding her after taking her to see the Nutcracker ballet at Christmas time, and how he had planned to take her to Disney World the year he was killed. She said Jocelyn’s father was taken away with no explanation when she was five years old. She said they do their best to keep Ryan’s memory alive for Jocelyn so that her dad doesn’t become a blur.

She said to Ryan that she loves and misses him everyday, and that the only thing that keeps her going is the thought of his voice telling her to live her life.

Noel Martin, Ryan’s niece, spoke next. She described the day of Ryan’s death in great detail. She said it was the second-to-last day of school of her sophomore year, a time that she remembered as carefree and happy. Until she went home to learn the news, which she said turned the day into one of chaos, coldness and sadness.

She described her uncle as her best friend, someone she could have intellectual conversations with and dream chase with one moment and be goofy the next. She said he had effortless care and kindness, and that he touched many lives.

She said she struggles to find eagerness for life again. She said writing her statement was not cathartic, it only added to her confusion about why her uncle was taken from her. She said her words won’t bring him back.

She said she sees much of Ryan in his daughter. She said Jocelyn has the same bright intelligence in her eyes.

“How sad that death teaches us so much about life,” she said. “But I haven’t learned anything positive from this.”

While cleaning out Ryan’s house, she said she only took two things: a map and a backpack, so she would have guidance on where to go and could take a piece of him with her. She said her stomach will never stop twisting and the tears will always remain in the back of her eyes.

Ryan’s sister-in-law, Megan, spoke next. She remembered the day he was killed and they drove to Jasper’s apartment. She would not refer to him by his name, but rather as ‘the defendant.’ She remembered the defendant saying he hadn’t even seen Ryan that day and that he blamed his behavior on his mental health issues.

She said she has watched the ripple effect of the pain course through her family, saying Ryan was taken too soon.

“What the defendant has taken away is unimaginable,” she said, specifically a father taken away from a daughter. But she said they will remain strong for Jocelyn.

She said the defendant went through great lengths to plan and cover up his actions, even though they were friends who worked at Arconic together. She said Ryan’s work locker was covered in photos of Jocelyn, so the defendant was well aware of what he was taking away.

She asked the court for the maximum sentence of 65 years. She said she could not forgive him yet, but that God would help her on that journey. While she might be able to forgive one day, she said she will never forget.

Megan then read a statement on behalf of her husband, Ryan’s brother, Christopher. Chris pointed out that the family couldn’t even see Ryan while he was at the morgue because he was so brutally hurt. He wanted to see Jasper held accountable for his actions and asked for the maximum sentence. He asked the court to do Ryan justice. He thanked the Lafayette Police Department and the prosecutor’s office for the diligence to the case.

Another sister-in-law to Ryan, Amber, spoke next. She said she had trouble finding the appropriate words for this speech. She described Ryan as loving, compassionate, hilarious, generous and family oriented.

She said Ryan was helping a woman out of an abusive relationship, and looked very pointedly at Jasper as she said this. She said he still had so many things to do in his life.

“You are the devil,” she said. “You are pure evil, you are not human and there is no helping you.”

She said he will never be a respectable human. She told him to “rot in prison and burn in hell” for what he did to Ryan. She said she hoped he would take his life and that he doesn’t deserve to live.

“You disgust me,” she said.

At these words, audible gasps and noises of displeasure could be heard from Jasper’s family and supporters in the gallery.

Talmadge got a chance to address the court next. He said he thinks about Ryan everyday. He said Ryan was his best friend and was always someone he could come to for advice and support.

He said he had begun to skip his medication leading to him becoming more erratic, paranoid and making mistakes at work. He said he also began to turn to alcohol.

"On May 23rd, I killed my best friend and I don’t know why,” he said, but that he will carry his actions with him forever.

He said he is truly sorry to the Martin family and that he hopes they can come to forgive him one day. He said he would gladly meet with anyone from Ryan’s family to talk about what happened and give any closure he can.

“He didn’t deserve the fate I gave him,” he concluded, after asking God to help guide him in the future.

Jasper’s lawyer, Patrick Manahan, began his closing arguments. He began by expressing his sorrow to the Martin family. He said his client accepts responsibility and wanted to enter into a plea agreement to minimize the harm to the family.

He began by pointing out that Jasper has no prior criminal history, but has a long history of therapeutic counseling. He said Jasper has actively been trying to address his mental health issues his entire life. He argued that making misstatements up front with police is consistent with severe mental illness.

One doctor examination confirmed that his history of mental health issues is accurate and that he had even checked himself into care at Sycamore Springs at one point. He said the character testimony from Ashley Wilson and the other character witness letter submitted to the court are in stark contrast with his actions on May 23rd.

He said he believes his client has genuine remorse and accepts responsibility for his actions. He said one of the key pillars of our criminal justice system is rehabilitation, which he believes is also key to Jasper finding purpose with his life.

All together his mitigators include his young age, no criminal history, strong mental health history and that his client had pleaded guilty. He asked for a sentence of 55 years with part of that time to be executed on probation.

At this point, Judge Meyer asked Manahan to point out what exactly Jasper’s mental health diagnosis is, as it had been unclear at this point. Manahan that the doctor he had referenced earlier believed he suffered from psychosis as well schizophrenia, hallucinations and that medication like adderall may be contributing to his behavior. In conclusion, Jasper had a lot of aspects that contributed to mental illness without a specific diagnosis.

The state began its closing arguments with a timeline of events. Prosecuting attorney Michael Dean argued that this story really begins back in May of 2017 when Jasper started showing trouble at school, was getting intoxicated, said he had no feelings and described himself as a sociopath.

In February 2019, Jasper was dating a woman named Skyler Renn. She went to police at that time and filed a police report for Jasper’s possessive and abusive behavior. He had assaulted her, strangled her, slammed her head into a wall, covered her mouth to prevent her from screaming and taken her phone away to prevent her from calling for help. The prosecution showed some pictures to the court of her injuries that supported these actions.

Renn broke up with Jasper then, which the prosecution said led Jasper to have a mental breakdown and to check himself into Sycamore Springs in March. The prosecution said this was a matter of Jasper not being able to cope with the breakup, not a true mental health crisis. He told Sycamore Springs that the only person he cared for at the time was Renn and that she was his only reason for living.

In April, Renn received a protective order from the court against Jasper. Work records show that Jasper was on sick leave for much of April but returned on April 22nd to learn that Ryan was now dating Renn. He said there is evidence that his coworkers even teased him about it, which the prosecution argued only added fuel to the fire.

On May 8th is when Jasper started planning the murder. The prosecution showed a receipt from Lowe’s that day that had four items on it: a tarp, a 10 inch mini saw, gloves and a sledge hammer. Dean described it as a “grocery list for muder.” He added that Jasper admitted during the guilty plea hearing that he had bought those items with the intention of using them to kill Ryan.

The next step in the plan was getting Ryan alone in his apartment. Dean said that Jasper purposefully asked Ryan for a ride home from work that day. He said that Jasper told other people to stay away from his apartment at that time.

Testimony from their work supervisor said that Jasper was very interested in Ryan’s whereabouts that day and that he seemed nervous as they left work together.

Once Jasper got Ryan up to his apartment, he was sitting on the couch when Jasper struck him four times in the back of the head with the sledge hammer. He was still breathing at that point so Jasper strangled him to death. He then put Ryan’s body into a plastic tote and put it in the closet. Dean said they had photo evidence of all of this, but would not show it to spare the family. All photos were submitted as evidence.

Next Dean explained how Jasper cleaned up the scene. They found bloody upholstery in the trash. They found bloody couch cushions wrapped in the tarp as well. They had video evidence of Jasper driving Ryan’s car back to his home on Kenosha Court, and that he went inside to stare at Renn while she slept. He then went to the At Home store and bought rugs to cover up other signs of evidence in the apartment. He took out cash and then met his mother for breakfast and bought her flowers.

Two court-appointed mental health experts met with Jasper while he was at the Tippecanoe County Jail. Dean said that all of sudden Jasper starts claiming to have these dramatic hallucinations that are not parallel with his previous mental health history. Both mental health experts came to the same conclusion: Jasper’s psychotic symptoms were either fabricated or being exaggerated for leniency. One said they believed him to have manifestations of character pathology and that they don’t think he was ever schizophrenic.

The state acknowledged that Jasper had now accepted responsibility, that he had a good employment record and that he had a strong family support system.

For aggravators, the prosecution argued that he did have a history of delinquency when he was expelled from school and was selling his adderall. He argued concern for the community should Jasper be allowed back into society since Jasper is a self-proclaimed sociopath. He argued that the nature of the crime was significant. Jasper planned the murder for two weeks, took advantage of Ryan’s kindness by getting a ride home from work, brutally murdered him and then went to great lengths to try and cover it up.

Dean argued that there was no remorse in the days after the crime. He couldn’t understand why Jasper had said in his statement earlier that he didn’t know why he had killed his best friend. To the prosecution the reason was clear: revenge for losing Skyler Renn.

Finally, the evaluations from the mental health experts that Jasper was fabricating and/or exaggerating his mental health suffering was a clear negation of any mental health defense. The prosecution asked for the maximum sentence of 65 years and no probation.

Judge Meyer began his final remarks by trying to hash out the main conundrum: was Talmadge Jasper truly suffering from his mental illness when he took Ryan Martin’s life? He said there was conflicting evidence on the matter, but the fact that two separate examinations came to the same conclusion of fabrication or exaggeration was hard to ignore. He still was not clear on what exact mental illness Jasper suffers from.

He began to examine the actions leading up to May 23rd. He said Jasper clearly had the wherewithal to plan a “cruel murder.” He was able to tell other people to stay away from his apartment on the day of the killing. He “brutally attacked” Martin in a “heinous way.” Ryan did him a solid by driving him home from work that day and he was paid back by being killed from behind.

He had the ability to see Ryan was not dead after the blows to the back of the head, and then went to the extra length to finish the job by strangling him to death. He knowingly folded Ryan’s body into a plastic tote and hid it in his closet. He said all these actions, on top of taking the steps to try and cover up the scene and act normal with a breakfast with his mother, show that he was a coherent and thinking individual at the time.

Ultimately, Judge Meyer was not convinced he was mentally ill at the time of the murder and that he would not give a “guilty but mentally ill” distinction with his sentence.

He acknowledged that Ryan was a loving son, devoted father, productive member of society who had befriended Jasper.

“He didn’t deserve any of it,” said the judge. “You callously and brutally snuffed out his life from this world.”

While he acknowledged that Jasper had no official criminal history, he could not agree that he had led a law abiding life when he factored in the abuse to Renn and his illegal use of adderall.

At this point, several people in Jasper’s group of supporters were holding hands and giving strength to Jasper’s mother.

For mitigators, Judge Meyer acknowledged that Jasper had pleaded guilty, sparing all family members involved from the gory details of the crime. He believed that while it hadn’t always been the case, Jasper does now accept responsibility and remorse for his actions.

He said Jasper did have a good employment history. But the mitigator he was putting the most weight on was his age. Jasper killed Martin the day before his 19th birthday. And no matter what the sentence length, he would be sending a young man to prison for a long amount of time for immature actions of a teenager.

“It is a long time, but you snuffed out a young life,” said Judge Meyer.

He decided to sentence him to 60 years to be fully executed in the Department of Corrections with no conditions of probation.

He concluded by saying this was an emotional case for both sides and both families would be struggling with loss. He said that nothing he could say or do can bring back Ryan, but that he hopes both families find healing. He wished Jasper well before leaving the bench.

Martin’s family said they would like to thank the community for all their support during this time. They wanted to reiterate that Ryan was a good man who loved his daughter Jocelyn very much.

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