The man accused of killing 25-year-old Jaimee Mendez of Swampscott in 2014, is expected to plead guilty to her murder Friday and accept 17 years in prison.
Mendez’s family is stunned and angry at the development.
The young mother’s family had been through a rollercoaster of pain, starting with her disappearance in November 2014, her body washing up on King’s Beach in pieces, long months waiting for the state Medical Examiner to release her body, and finally with police charging then 37-year-old Jason Fleury with her murder nine months after she went missing.
Mendez’s photo still hangs on a memorial over the beach where she and her son loved to play.
“You just think about what happened and the last moments of her life. And you can’t get it out," Jaimee's aunt, Beatrice Mendez, said. "You can’t get it out of your head.”
The last anyone heard from the 25-year-old mother was when she called a friend to say she was with a man who made her nervous. That man, prosecutors say, was Jason Fleury, a convicted sex offender who fled to Virginia after she went missing.
Nine months later he was charged with her murder, but few details about how and why Mendez was killed have ever been released. Her family hoped they’d get answers at his trial — slated to start in two weeks.
“You try not to fall apart every single day,” Beatrice Mendez said through tears. “You put on a face to go on and get ready for something that is going to rip your heart out.”
But the family was stunned to learn there will be no trial. The state offered Fleury a plea deal. From murder to manslaughter, 17 years minus time served. And Friday, he’s expected to take it.
We asked Beatrice Mendez what the family doesn’t get out of a plea deal that they would have gotten out of a trial.
“You just want to know,” she said. “You want to know what happened. Those few times he's appeared in court. He hides in the corner. He stays away from the cameras. He stays away from the reporters as if he’s making himself small and not known. He should be known. He should be known to everybody."
Beatrice Mendez wanted Fleury to suffer through a trial and face the family prosecutors say he robbed. To see that Jaimee Mendez mattered.
“She’s not just some kid you can throw away. That she’s not just some kid that you can dump in the ocean.”
The family says they had less than 48 hours to prepare victim impact statements, but Beatrice Mendez will.
“I want to talk about her and the smile that she had,” she said. “It’s those family moments that are just not possible anymore.”
A spokeswoman from the Essex District Attorney’s office will not say why they are making the deal. They had no comment on the proposed arrangement.
The plea hearing is Friday at 2 p.m. at Salem Superior Court. Jamiee’s now 9-year-old son with autism will not be there. Beatrice Mendez says he knows his mother is gone but doesn’t know why.