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Man appears in court after indictment on charge of manslaughter

Tel Pethtel | Lemhi County Jail
SALMON – A Lemhi County man appeared in court on Friday after being indicted on a charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Tel Pethtel, 27, appeared in court in front of Magistrate Judge Andrew Woolf following an indictment filed on Dec. 9.
In court, Pethtel advised that he would be hiring his own attorney, rather than having the court assign him a public defender. His attorney will be RJ Hoopes, an attorney out of Rexburg.
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On Oct. 18, 2021, the Lemhi County Sheriff’s office received a call around 7 a.m. about a pickup truck crash in the Panther Creek Road area. When deputies arrived, they discovered the body of 32-year-old Jon Ryan Kesterson down an embankment and into the trees.
Investigators say 26-year-old Tel William Pethtel, Kesterson and an unnamed woman were together when Kesterson died. They later discovered that Pethtel was driving the pickup truck.
As ordered by District Judge Stevan H. Thompson, the names of the woman and Kesterson were redacted from court documents.
Deputies eventually caught up with Pethtel and the woman about 10 hours after Kesterson died, asking to get their version of events.
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According to them, Pethel and someone in the pickup got into a disagreement. They got out of the pickup and started fighting, according to court documents.
“At some point during that altercation, Pethtel claimed a .22 magnum handgun went off and (Kesterson) was struck with a bullet and died,” police reports state. “Pethtel also fired a .22 magnum rifle three times during this brief time period.”

Jon Kesterson | Facebook photo
At the scene of the shooting, investigators recovered at least one casing from the rifle. When investigators looked at the handgun, they reported finding three spent casings inside. Deputies also found .22 ammunition at the scene.
With the truck not working following the crash, Pethtel removed an ATV from the pickup truck for him and the woman to leave the scene, according to court documents.
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The two went to a hunters camp in the area to get a ride to a family member’s home where they stayed afterwards. Deputies report Pethtel and the woman never contacted authorities about Kesterson’s death.
Later on, the two went to Challis, where Pethtel reportedly burned a pair of pants with blood on them, according to court documents. The two then took showers, destroying the blood and DNA evidence on their bodies.
Pethtel also took the boots he wore during the shooting and hid them in a building under a tarp, according to investigators in court documents.
When deputies contacted Pethtel and the woman around 6 p.m., he pointed them toward a .22 caliber rifle hanging on a gun rack at the home. Investigators also recovered the handgun allegedly used in the shooting.
Pethtel is not legally supposed to have guns because he is a convicted felon in Oregon and Idaho.
According to court documents, he and the woman said they kept the guns belonging to a family member to protect themselves from wolves and for everyday carry because they were in a wilderness area.
“Each felt their safety from wolves outweighed the felony conviction restrictions of Pethtel in regard to firearm possession,” the probable cause statement reads.
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Deputies say Pethtel then tried to fabricate a story about what happened.
He reportedly sent Facebook messages to others, saying (name redacted) became intoxicated and upset. The messages then said (name redacted) drove away from the house in the truck with the ATV and a .22 handgun.
“That was the last time either Pethtel or (name redacted) had seen (name redacted) and they had no information as to his whereabouts when contacted by law enforcement on this date,” the affidavit reads. “The Facebook texts were an attempt to cover up Pethtels and (name redacted) involvements in this vehicle accident and apparent unlawful death scene.”
Pethtel was taken into custody and booked into the Ada County Jail before being transferred to the Lemhi County Jail. After the indictment was filed, Pethtel’s bond was set to $500,000.
Woolf noted in court on Friday that there will be no preliminary hearing, and Pethtel will be able to argue for a bond reduction at his next court appearance on Jan. 18.
If convicted, Pethtel faces up to 15 years in prison.
Although Pethtel is accused of these crimes, it does not necessarily mean he committed them. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The post Man appears in court after indictment on charge of manslaughter appeared first on East Idaho News.

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