A 36-year-old Iraqi War veteran who beat to death an acquaintance in Portland and then burned the body in a wooded area of Lane County was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday.
Peter George Jirasek and his defense attorney told the family of Daniel Cohen that at the time of the killing, Jirasek was using drugs and suffering from mental health problems due to his military service during the war. Court papers say Jirasek suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and depression, and had been using heroin and methamphetamine on a weekly basis.
Prosecutors believe that Cohen, Jirasek and Jirasek’s girlfriend were doing drugs together on the night of the killing. They say the two men started to fight and Jirasek beat to death Cohen, 30, likely with some sort of instrument on March 29, 2017. He and Jirasek’s girlfriend then drove Cohen’s car down a U.S. Forest Service road in Lane County and burned it.
The body was found two days later, but was so badly burned that investigators had to submit a sample for DNA for testing to identify it. A forensic expert determined that the deceased suffered cranial trauma.
Meanwhile, Cohen’s father, Martin Cohen, said he and his family were unaware of the discovered body and searched in agony for answers, after Daniel Cohen never showed up to meet friends for dinner that night.
“We contacted the police and were told it had only been a few days, he was an adult, he wasn’t impaired and there was nothing they could do,” the elder Cohen said. “…We were concerned that something terrible had happened to him.”
Martin Cohen said he and his family continued to worry after the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office called them and said deputies had found his son’s car in a Troutdale park, and that the people inside claimed his son had given them permission to use it.
According to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, Jirasek and his girlfriend had been living in the car at Glenn Otto Community Park when contacted by law enforcement.
For months, the family searched for answers, even hiring a private investigator to try to solve the mystery of what happened, Martin Cohen said. About five months after Daniel Cohen’s disappearance, police told the family that they’d found a burned body in Lane County and that they’d determined it was Daniel Cohen’s, the elder Cohen said.
“It finally confirmed what we had been dreading, but not what we wanted to hear,” Martin Cohen said.
Martin Cohen said his son had struggles, but was making strides.
“Mr. Jirasek, you took his life,” Martin Cohen told Jirasek, during Thursday’s sentencing hearing. “You took away the progress he was starting to make in his life.”
Jirasek apologized, and implied that Daniel Cohen produced a gun during their fight — prompting Jirasek to unleash.
“I had a flashback to Iraq,” Jirasek said. “…It was me or him. It was a fight or flight.”
Last month, Jirasek pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, first-degree abuse of a corpse and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He originally was charged with murder and other crimes.
Brent Weisberg, a spokesman for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, said his office took into consideration Jirasek’s mental state and the drugs that he’d been doing at the time of the killing.
Jirasek’s girlfriend, Jessika Lynne Atkinson, pleaded guilty in October 2017 to first-degree abuse of a corpse, unauthorized use of a vehicle, hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence. She was sentenced to five years of probation, which included participation in the drug treatment court, START.
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