Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce Says "Sorry" to Victim's Family, But Pushes Plea Deal Anyway

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Kevin Beindorff.
Kevin Beindorff.

On Friday, we reported on a St. Louis circuit judge's surprise decision to reject a plea deal for suspect Kevin Beindorff who shot and killed eighteen-year-old Matthew Pellegrini. The victim's family celebrated the unexpected decision, after weeks of protesting a plea deal that would give Beindorff, 22, seven years in prison. The high-profile case has gotten a lot of attention, in part, because the suspect told police that his friend "asked to be shot."

Just a few hours after the judge's decision, though, the family got word that the defense's attorneys had already managed to bring the case to another judge who could, next month, very well accept the exact same plea deal. Tami Inkley, Pellegrini's mother, who had expressed her relief to us right after the decision, says she is shocked. "I'm just heartbroken and frustrated."

Meanwhile, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, who has faced backlash from the victim's family, decided to address some of the outcry with a lengthy and personal statement in the comment section of the Post-Dispatch.

"While the impact of this tragedy on Mr. Pellegrini's family has been tremendous, under our legal system charging decisions and plea agreements are made by objective prosecutors based on the evidence available and the application of the laws of the State of Missouri," Joyce wrote. The full statement is on view below.

Inkley and Pellegrini's other grieving relatives have continued to criticize Joyce since news broke that her office and the defense had agreed to a plea deal that would give Beindorff an involuntary manslaughter conviction instead of a second-degree murder charge. The case therefore did not go to trial.

Beindorff shot Pellegrini point-blank in the head inside a car, but has argued that he didn't intend to kill him.

click to enlarge Matthew Pellegrini and his mother. - Courtesy of Tami Inkley
Courtesy of Tami Inkley
Matthew Pellegrini and his mother.

While the family initially thought on Friday that Joyce could have a second chance to address the family's pleas for a stiffer prosecution, soon after, they learned that a second judge will have an opportunity on May 7 to accept the same plea deal and offer an accompanying sentence.

"She let us down once again," Inkley says, adding that the family continues to learn of these developments from reporters, making the process all the more frustrating. "There's no communication."

Inkley, who offered emotional testimony a week prior, says she is starting to feel helpless. "I don't know what else to do.... There's no input from the victim's family. Why are they protecting the perpetrator?"

Continue for commentary from Jennifer Joyce.

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