Inmate allegedly coerced slain woman into witchcraft

Herald staff and news service reports

A man in prison serving time for a Snohomish County burglary reportedly coerced a woman into witchcraft who was later allegedly killed by her husband.

Justin Matyas, an inmate at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, somehow came in contact with Tara Jensen and started writing letters to her. Matyas, 31, is serving a seven-year burglary sentence from Snohomish County.

Jensen’s husband, James, of Pasco, apparently told his defense attorney, James Egan, that letters from Matyas coerced his wife into witchcraft, putting a strain on their marriage.

"It drove him crazy," Egan said.

James Jensen, 31, is now charged with aggravated first-degree murder for the Sept. 16 shooting and could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Franklin County Prosecutor Steve Lowe said Tuesday that he will not seek the death penalty for James Bennett Jensen because the victim apparently had ignored a restraining order she had obtained to keep her husband away from her.

James Jensen pleaded innocent Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court, and a trial date was scheduled for Nov. 15.

Tara Dee Jensen, 32, filed for divorce this summer, and had a restraining order in effect against her husband at the time of her death.

Under Washington law, the restraining order could have allowed the prosecutor to seek the death penalty. But Lowe said it was obvious that Tara Jensen had allowed her husband to move back into her house at least two weeks before she was killed.

Matyas has a long record in Snohomish County, including convictions for burglary, auto theft, assault and drug violations.

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