LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A woman accused of decapitating the father of her children and throwing his head in the trash was in court on an unrelated case telling a judge she was a low risk to re-offend at the same time police searched for their murder suspect, the 8 News Now Investigators have learned.
Henderson police arrested Devyn Michaels, 45, who also uses the name Tracee Tavarez, on Aug. 15 for the Aug. 7 murder of 46-year-old Johnathon Willette. On Aug. 9, Michaels was in court for sentencing on a child abuse charge.
Police suspect Michaels killed and decapitated Willette at a Henderson home, documents said. Willette’s mother, who owns the home, told police she saw Michaels and her son late on the night of Aug 6. She then saw Michaels cleaning dishes around 1 a.m. on Aug. 7, documents said.
“[Willette’s mother] did not see Johnathan, and Devyn told [Willette’s mother] that Johnathan was sleeping in the bed because he had been drinking and smoking marijuana,” an arrest report said.
Later in the morning, Willette’s mother called police after finding his body, documents said.
Records show Las Vegas Metro police arrested Michaels on a child abuse or neglect charge on Oct. 14, 2022. An employee at a childcare facility called police to report an 8-year-old with bruising on her leg.
“[The employee] stated that [the child] approached her teacher and told her that she had got a ‘whooping’ while at home from her stepfather,” documents said. [The child] also told the teacher that her mother gave her a ‘whopping’ the week prior for having apple juice.”
A child protective services employee also interviewed the child and Michaels, documents said. Michaels told the employee she spanked the child and hit the child with a belt.
Judge Mary Kay Holthus sentenced Michaels to one year of probation on the child abuse charge on Aug. 9, records showed. In the days before and after the hearing, police were interviewing Michaels and collecting evidence as part of their murder investigation, documents said.
“I have done counseling classes, therapy, drug tests, psych evaluations, I’ve done everything,” Michaels told Holthus during the sentencing. “Everyone I’ve spoken to say I’m not an abusive person and they don’t feel there’s any risk for me to abuse her or would ever do this again.”
“She’s a low risk of reoffending,” Michaels’ public defender told Holthus. “There’s nothing on there that says she would offend again.”
When police spoke to Michaels around the same time, she told them that she did not live with Willette, but that they were in the process of moving in together to make it easier on their children, documents said. However, this move was complicated because Michaels was married and lived with Willette’s son, making him both her husband and stepson.
Michaels later told police that on the night of Willette’s death, the two were sitting on a bed and Willette was trying to get Michaels to perform a sexual act on him. She said while he was lying face down rubbing her back, she grabbed a wooden stick and hit him in the back of the head, causing his arms to go limp, documents said.
Michaels told police that she didn’t want to kill him but wanted to hurt him enough so that he would have to go to the hospital because she wanted him out of the way so she could figure out what to do with her children, according to police.
Michaels allegedly took Willette’s head from the Henderson crime scene and drove it to her home in Las Vegas where she threw it in the trash, documents said. The head was then likely picked up by a trash service, prosecutors said. It remained missing as of Tuesday.
Willette’s mother later told police that a meat clever was also missing from the home, documents said.
During an interview with police, Michaels never admitted to decapitating Willette.
Henderson police arrested Michaels on Aug. 15. A grand jury indicted Michaels on the charge last month.
Last week, Holthus revoked Michaels’ probation and ordered her to serve a one-year jail sentence with credit for time served. A judge also denied Michaels bail in the murder case.
Willette owned a marketing and moving businesses, a GoFundMe page said. A family member did not respond to repeated requests for comment.