JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A convicted sex offender who pleaded guilty to beating his 48-year-old fiancee to death last October was sentenced Monday to half a century in prison, and the mother of his victim told the court she believes she would have been next.
Earlier this month, Wilford Chason pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Jennifer Herbert, who was found beaten to death Oct. 15, 2018, in their Bartram Park condominium.
A Duval County judge sentenced Chason to 50 years behind bars as part of the plea deal Chason made with prosecutors.
Chason spoke very briefly Monday, saying he is remorseful for what happened and wanted to apologize for the pain he has caused.
"I know they're probably falling on deaf ears. I apologize and I'm very sorry," Chason said.
But Jennifer Herbert’s mother, Diane Herbert, told the court she believed Chason was coming after her when he was tracked down in October driving in Flagler County after he murdered her daughter. Diane Herbert lives in Flagler County.
The prosecutor read Diane Herbert's statement to the court Monday. She said Chason had been verbally abusive to both her and her daughter, to the point where Jennifer was afraid to contact her.
“Had it not been for the actions of the defendant, Jennifer was destined to live a very full life. There are so many memories, I can barely breathe when I think of them, let alone try to express them," Diane Herbert wrote. "My hopes and dreams were instantly shattered by a completely senseless act."
Chason was arrested in Daytona Beach in October after he was released from a hospital where he was held under the Baker Act after he tried to kill himself while driving on Interstate 95.
Deputies said a call from OnStar informed dispatchers that the driver of an SUV had cut himself with a razor. On I-95 in Palm Coast, deputies caught up with the vehicle, which investigators say was traveling at approximately 90 mph.
A deputy did not pursue the driver, identified as Chason, and told an OnStar operator to slow the vehicle down, the Flagler County Sheriff's Office said. The SUV pulled into a weigh station and came to a halt after running over a stop stick.
Investigators said Chason had self-inflicted lacerations to his arms, neck and other parts of his body. A deputy found a gold engagement ring on the ground next to the driver's side of the SUV. The ring, which had blood on the band, was taken into evidence.
Chason was taken to a hospital, where police in Daytona Beach said he confessed to killing a woman he identified as his wife and told them where her body could be found.
Jacksonville officers sent to the Twinleaf condominiums off Bartram Park Road -- the address listed for Chason on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's sex offender registry -- found Jennifer Herbert's body.
Diane Herbert said Jennifer (pictured) was adopted and was a loving, caring child and person. She said her daughter was an animal lover and despite having suffered from juvenile diabetes, she was a fighter through and through.
She said she is devastated by the loss.
"I was and remain in shock, disbelief. No Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday -- not a single day will ever the way it should have been," Diane Herbert wrote in her statement.
Diane Herbert said Jennifer had talked about one day meeting her biological mother, but now she will never have that chance.
Chason was convicted in Duval County in 1999 of robbery, attempted kidnapping and lewd and lascivious behavior with a child younger than 16. He has been on the sex offender registry since his release in 2011, when he listed his address as Sorel Street in Middleburg. According to the FDLE, he had lived in Bartram Park since 2016.