WOODSTOCK – A Shenandoah County man received jail time Wednesday for his role in a love triangle that turned violent in 2017.
Retired Judge Dennis L. Hupp sentenced Tyler Ivan Polk in Shenandoah County Circuit Court to 12 months in jail with nine months suspended for brandishing a firearm and 12 months, all time suspended, for reckless handling of a firearm. The court had changed Polk’s original felony charge of attempted malicious wounding to reckless handling of a firearm, a misdemeanor.
An agreement reached in September between Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Austin Hovermale and Polk’s lawyer Jerry O. Talton Jr. called for the defendant to plead guilty to the two firearms charges. The plea agreement also set the punishment as later ordered by Hupp. Polk will receive credit for time already served pending the outcome of the case. The court deferred proceedings in the case for several months.
The judge ordered that Polk complete two years of unsupervised probation on each charge, both to run concurrently. The conditions of the probation call for Polk to not possess, buy or own a firearm; that he have no contact with the victim, Cameron Wetzel, or the victim’s child. The judge ordered Polk to forfeit his firearm.
Polk remained free on bond pending his sentencing hearing under terms of the agreement.
Hupp dismissed at the request of the commonwealth Polk’s remaining use of a firearm in the commission of a felony under terms of the agreement. The commonwealth also agreed to bring no additional charges against Polk for conduct related to the Sept. 14, 2017 incident.
The agreement limited the punishment for each charge at 12 months with 12 months suspended for reckless handling of a firearm. The agreement left it up to the court to determine how much of the 12-month sentence on the brandishing charge Polk would serve.
Hovermal reiterated to the court a proffer of the evidence the commonwealth intended to present had the case gone to trial. Judge Clark A. Ritchie had heard the proffer in September. Woodstock police officer J.D. Wilberger responded to a Water Street residence for a domestic disturbance. Polk had come to the residence occupied by Wetzel and Brittany Steele. Polk had a child in common with Steele, Hovermale said. Polk and Steele exchanged a series of text messages in which the mother of their child told the accused to leave her alone and to go home. Polk had become upset that Steele was in a relationship with Wetzel, Hovermale said.
Polk came over to the residence with a handgun tucked into his waistband, Hovermale said. At some point, Polk took the gun out of his pants and held the firearm. Wetzel then came at Polk, took the firearm and proceeded to “severely” beat the defendant with the weapon, Hovermale explained. The prosecutor pointed out that Steele made conflicting statements as to the events that occurred.
The firearm had five rounds in the magazine but no bullets in the chamber, Hovermale said.
Wetzel submitted a victim-impact statement that Hovermale read for the court in which the defendant commented about how the incident affected him.
“I don’t believe Tyler has any remorse for what he did,” Hovermale read from Wetzel’s statement.
Polk and Steele married while he remained free on bond pending the outcome of the case.
Talton argued that the court should suspend the entire 12-month sentence on the brandishing charge. Talton reminded the court that the firearm did not have a round in the chamber. The defense attorney also pointed out that Wetzel took the firearm from Polk and nearly beat his client to death.
“Brittany, like Pocohontas, threw herself between Cameron and Tyler to protect Tyler with her body so he wouldn’t be beaten to death,” Talton told the court.
Talton called his client’s father, Terry Polk, to testify on his son’s behalf. Asked if his son posed a danger to the community, the father testified that “he’s no threat.” Terry Polk, retired from a career in law enforcement, said his son has some memory loss from the physical altercation.
Talton reiterated his argument for a suspended sentence. Hovermale, in providing a rebuttal argument, commented that Wetzel could not have known there was no round in the chamber of Polk’s firearm.
“The victim had every reason to fear for his safety,” Hovermale said. “This is not how you deal with problems.”
Polk read from a written statement in which he apologized for his actions, which led to him being unable to provide for his family.