GRANTS PASS — An Army veteran who claimed post-traumatic stress despite never seeing combat acknowledged Wednesday at a hearing in Eugene that he shot to death a neighbor while the man's wife and 3-year-old child watched.
Jarrod William Pardun, 29, of Creswell, was sentenced to 25 years in prison with no possibility of parole after entering the guilty plea in Lane County Circuit Court on a charge of murder with a firearm for the July 18 slaying of Steven Thurston, 59, of Creswell.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Patty Perlow said Pardun pleaded guilty after a mental examination ordered by the state found he was not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the shooting.
"It was a tragedy to both families," said defense attorney Robert Schrenk. "That's the bottom line. To the Pardun family and the Thurston family. Pardun was treating with the VA and he was asking for help."
After the Army, Pardun had gone through bankruptcy and fathered a child and was working as a highway flagger at the time of the shooting. He was arrested after calling 911 from home and saying he had shot Thurston. He told investigators he was seeking disablity benefits for post-traumatic stress.
Court records indicate that Thurston had yelled at Pardun for speeding through their neighborhood. Pardun told investigators he thought Thurston meant to kill him so he drove home and got a shotgun he kept propped in the corner of his bedroom, drove back to Thurston's front yard, and fired one shot at Thurston.
Thurston's wife, Beverly Thurston, told authorities her husband was assembling a doll's baby changing station for his daughter Ashley's third birthday when Pardun drove by. Despite her pleas for her husband to come in the house, he stayed outside, where he was shot as she and the child watched, Beverly Thurston said.
"She heard a single shot fired, and heard her daughter say, 'Daddy down,'" the affidavit said. "Beverly said she immediately caught up the girl and ran into the house" and called her adult son.
"She said that when she returned to the front yard, she saw her husband lying on the ground. He was wounded, complaing he couldn't breath, and telling his son that he loved him," the affidavit said.
Steven Thurston was also an Army veteran. Military records show he enlisted out of high school in 1968 and served as a medical clerk in the U.S. and Ethiopia before leaving active duty in 1972.
He worked for the VA before retiring in 2000 as an administrator at the clinic in Eugene and later worked at a state home for developmentally disabled adults in Creswell, his wife said.
In affidavits, investigators said Pardun had told them he was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, and had a medical marijuana card allowing him to smoke pot for his symptoms. Pardun said he had smoked marijuana that morning and sped off in his 1988 Cadillac after a fight with his girlfriend.
Besides the 12-gauge double-barreled shotgun, deputies seized marijuana plants and prescription drugs for anxiety and depression from the home Pardun shared with his sister and girlfriend, according to a search warrant.
Army records show Pardun served as a light wheel mechanic between August 1999 and August 2004, and was posted to Korea and Fort Carson, Colo., but did not go to Iraq with other members of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
His sister, Kathy Franklin, told The Register-Guard newspaper that Pardun never got over watching a video of members of his unit being shot down in a helicopter in Iraq.
Schrenk had filed notice of intent to use expert testimony that Pardun was under extreme emotional and mental disturbance, and would rely on evidence of lack of intent in the slaying.
With the guilty plea, Pardun avoided a life prison sentence, and two firearms charges carrying five years each were dismissed, Schrenk said.
Pardun had been scheduled to go on trial June 1.