By Eric Grossarth
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (eastidahonews.com) — A man with a history of severe mental illnesses could now spend decades in prison for indirectly causing the death of a credit union employee during a robbery.
Matthew J. Stavert, 32, will spend between eight and 33 years in prison after pleading guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter and felony robbery. Stavert received the sentence Wednesday for the July 2, 2020, robbery at a Mountain America Credit Union that resulted in the death of 33-year-old branch manager Jacob O’Haver.
Stavert was originally charged with felony robbery and burglary, but the burglary charge was changed to manslaughter as part of a plea agreement.
District Judge Bruce Pickett handed down the sentence, saying probation or a rider program was not appropriate for Stavert, who has struggled with mental health issues for nearly two decades. Since he turned 13 years old, Stavert has received multiple convictions and been committed to a state mental hospital before the 2020 robbery.
Mental illness appears to have played in the robbery. Defense attorney Tyler Salvesen relayed a conversation between Stavert and mental health professionals about the day of the robbery. Stavert told them he robbed the bank because “the voices” inside his head told him he was spreading COVID-19, and he needed to go to jail to spread the virus further.
Stavert has made other confusing statements that involved building pyramids to stop “the zombies” and “dog men.” Such statements led to multiple competency issues in his case and a diagnosis of “unspecified schizophrenia spectrum, and other psychotic disorder.” He also was diagnosed with manic depression.
Salvesen focused heavily on Staver’s mental health as a reason he committed the robbery.
The robbery took place at around 4:40 p.m. Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office reports show Stavert went to Wendy’s next to Mountain America Credit Union on 25th East in Ammon. Stavert, a former employee at the restaurant, told his former boss he planned to rob the credit union minutes before alarms sounded.
Multiple robbery alarms alerted authorities to an active robbery at the credit union around 5 p.m. Shortly after, they got called from the same business about an employee suffering a medical emergency.
A bank teller later told detectives Stavert walked into the bank carrying a McDonald’s bag. She said Stavert told her to “fill the bag.” When she asked, “with what?” Stavert stood silent. The teller asked Stavert if he had an account. He responded yes, but it was frozen.
The teller messaged other employees that she believed Stavert was trying to rob her. O’Haver walked out of the office, asked what was wrong and Stavert then told him to “fill the bag,” court documents report.
Stavert left the building with the fast-food bag full of $500 in cash and french fries.
Shortly after O’Haver had a medical emergency and collapsed. When first responders arrived they found O’Haver unresponsive, and EMS could not revive him. He was rushed to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
O’Haver reportedly died of a ruptured aorta caused by the stress, according to Salvesen.
“You robbed us (of) the greatest man in our life,” O’Haver’s widow, Sydney O’Haver, said in a victim impact statement during sentencing.
She told the court about the people he left behind, including their four kids. She described how her 13-year marriage to O’Haver was cut short because of Stavert’s actions, but she did not hate him. The widow said she wants Stavert to learn from the consequences of his actions and make his life better.
Bonneville County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Alex Muir called the case “difficult,” and although mental health is a mitigating factor, he believed Stavert was not in the middle of a psychotic episode during the robbery. Muir said deputy reports did not indicate any signs of mental illness that law enforcement are trained to recognize, and Stavert appropriately declined to talk without an attorney present.
When handing down the sentencing Pickett said it was clear Stavert did not intend to kill anyone during the robbery but his actions did lead to O’Haver’s death. Pickett also agreed there were some mental health issues the day of the robbery.
“I just would like to say I’m deeply sorry,” Stavert said at the sentencing. “I feel horrible about it.”
In addition to the time in prison, Pickett ordered Stavert to pay $2,000 in fines. Restitution had not been calculated as of Wednesday’s sentencing.
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