Pleading for his life, killer blames actions on Satan

Published July 8, 2006

TAVARES - Blaming his actions on Satan and drugs, a man who ambushed and killed a deputy pleaded for his life in a letter to a judge.

Calling himself a "broken man," Jason Lee Wheeler, 31, offered his first apology directed to the family of Lake County sheriff's Deputy Wayne Koester since the February 2005 killing in Paisley. The letter was sent from jail to Circuit Judge T. Michael Johnson, who is to decide in September whether Wheeler deserves life in prison or death.

Koester was killed and Deputies Bill Crotty and Tom McKane were wounded when Wheeler, waiting in the woods with a sawed-off shotgun, ambushed them as they responded to a domestic violence call from Wheeler's girlfriend. Wheeler was left paralyzed from the chest down after a gunfight during his capture.

"I swear I would give you my life if it would bring him back, but it won't and I'm sorry," he wrote in the five-page letter. He said Satan was on a mission from hell to destroy him during the year leading up to the attacks, and he described living a life "of pure sin."

Koester's brother Victor was unmoved by Wheeler's letter.

"It's not going to change anything I feel," he said Thursday. "I remember how he acted in the courtroom. I didn't see a lot of remorse then."

Jurors found Wheeler guilty May 20 of using a firearm to commit first-degree murder of a law-enforcement officer, among other charges. He did not address jurors before they recommended death.