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Isham pleads guilty to Jacka murder

November 29, 2016

VIRGINIA — A 44-year-old Nett Lake man admitted Monday to his role in the 2014 killing of Harley Jacka in Virginia.

Anthony James Isham pleaded guilty to an intentional second-degree murder charge, the fourth and final suspect to admit his role in the stabbing death.

He will be sentenced Dec. 19 by Sixth Judicial District Judge James B. Florey, when he faces a guideline of 30 years in prison.

His plea ends a long and often dramatic case that featured a surprise plea by one suspect and a change in court-appointed counsel for Isham.

Monday’s plea came as Isham and the state were set to make arguments over a change of venue request. The scheduled February trial would have pitted Isham against first-degree murder charges and a mandatory life sentence.

Jacka was found dead on April 29, 2014, in a Virginia apartment, stabbed 15 times in the head, neck, face and chest, according to an autopsy.

The first unexpected turn in the case came in 2015 when Janessa Lynn Peters, 21, of Eveleth, confessed to arranging Jacka’s murder. She testified she was having trouble ending her relationship with the victim and asked Bartholamy Jake Drift to kill him.

Peters indicated Isham and his cousin, John Edward Isham, “probably jumped in” on the killing.

Drift admitted to being asked to kill Jacka, but said Anthony Isham was the ringleader of the killing, and John Isham was not involved in the stabbing.

John Isham pleaded guilty to aiding an offender after the fact and was sentenced to six years in April. Drift and Peters pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges and are awaiting sentencing.

In July, the case took another twist when Anthony Isham’s public defenders were discharged from the case at their request. Attorneys Kevin Cromwell and Kimberly Corradi said Isham threatened them and was “hostile” during a March meeting at the Virginia courthouse.

They testified that he said there would be “repercussions” and that “things can happen from behind bars” if the case did not go in the direction he wanted.

Florey said Isham committed “serious misconduct” and the attorneys “reasonably interpreted” a “credible” threat to their physical health.

Kassius Benson, a Minneapolis attorney, was appointed to the case July 14.