weather icon Partly Cloudy

Las Vegas man was tortured for hours before canyon killing, records show

Updated August 27, 2021 - 10:05 pm

Prosecutors are considering the death penalty for at least one of three people accused this month of a gruesome crime in a remote canyon near Pahrump, where a Las Vegas man was tortured for multiple hours, thrown off a cliff and shot, records show.

Heather Pate, 27; her boyfriend, 36-year-old Kevin Dent; and her former boyfriend, 37-year-old Brad Mehn, have been accused of torturing and killing Pate’s neighbor, 27-year-old Roy Jaggers, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office has said. His body was found early Aug. 1 in Cathedral Canyon, a former roadside attraction from the 1970s and ’80s that has since fallen into disrepair in the Nye County desert.

As police continue to share details about the investigation with the man’s mother, Kassy Robinson, and father, Jerry Jaggers, the two have struggled to wrap their heads around their son’s heinous killing.

“How can you do that to another human being?” Jerry Jaggers said in a recent interview with the Review-Journal.

Deputies arrested Pate, Dent and Mehn within 36 hours of the initial 911 call reporting Roy Jaggers’ body, the sheriff’s office has said. According to a criminal complaint, Jaggers was tortured with a blowtorch, knives, baton and axe, then was stripped of his clothes and forced to walk off a cliff. At the bottom of the canyon, he was repeatedly shot with a shotgun, the complaint said.

Pate and her boyfriend are accused of luring Roy Jaggers to Pate’s home because they thought he had hurt Pate’s child, the sheriff’s office has said.

Thomas Gibson, Mehn’s court-appointed defense attorney, said Wednesday that prosecutors are considering the death penalty for his client. Mehn is accused of shooting Roy Jaggers after he went off the cliff, according to the complaint. Jaggers’ cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds, the sheriff’s office has said.

Jaggers’ mother told the Review-Journal that she did not know Pate well but said her son occasionally babysat Pate’s children or watched her dogs. His parents declined to talk about the specifics of the case, but both said their son was a kind man who would not hurt anyone.

“I know exactly what he was like, what he’s capable of, what he’s not capable of,” his mother said.

Roy Jaggers had experience as a contractor and electrician but had to rely on side work to get by during the COVID-19 pandemic. He eventually found work at a convenience store and was living at home to help care for his mother.

Other than a misdemeanor citation for trespassing in 2019 that was dismissed, he had no criminal history in Clark County, court records show.

He was an accomplished martial artist who from the age of 15 studied tai chi and kung fu at the Create, Develop and Flow Martial Arts Academy, his teacher, Jack Soderberg, said. Jaggers earned dozens of competition medals and trophies over the years. One of his crowning accomplishments was earning a “black sash” in kung fu four years ago.

Recently, he had started helping Soderberg teach martial arts to other students. His goal was to earn the title “sifu,” meaning master, and Soderberg said he would have made it with more time.

“He was a kid that appreciated things in life,” Soderberg said. “He had real excitement. He loved things, he loved people.”

He was also passionate about anime, hiking and political activism for Democratic campaigns, his father said. And he was a talented musician, playing saxophone since childhood and performing in the Bonanza High School marching band.

“He used to come in my room and sit on the edge of my bed, and we’d just sit and talk for hours,” his mother said. “And I miss that so bad.”

Remote crime scene

The last time his parents heard from him was July 31. His mother was away from their home, but Roy Jaggers called his dad to chat about his day. It was a normal conversation, and it ended the same as every call — he told his dad he loved him.

He was lured to Pate’s home about two hours later, Jerry Jaggers said.

Family Court records show that Pate was in a contentious custody battle with the father of her 3-year-old and 4-year-old sons. According to court records filed by the boys’ father after Pate’s arrest, the children witnessed part of the crime.

“There are video recordings of the crimes being committed, and as disturbing as that is, it is much more disturbing that in one video recording, the children are seen entering the room while the defendant/mother and her criminal co-defendants were committing various physical, criminal acts against the deceased of the criminal action,” according to the court filing, in which the father argued for primary custody of the boys.

After Jaggers was lured to Pate’s home, he was handcuffed and forced into her car, according to the criminal complaint, which was included in the Family Court fillings. Pate and Dent drove Jaggers to the Bell Vista shooting range in Pahrump, then met up with Mehn, whom police described as Pate’s “friend and former lover.”

The three later drove Jaggers about 25 miles away to Cathedral Canyon, where he “was shot by Mehn with a shotgun more than once after Jaggers was tortured and/or beaten by or in the presence of all three defendants at multiple locations,” the criminal complaint said.

Just after 6:20 a.m. on Aug. 1, someone called 911 to report a body found in the canyon, which lies between Mountain Springs and Pahrump, a few miles down a bumpy, barely paved road off of state Route 160. Police identified Jaggers using his fingerprints, the sheriff’s office has said.

It remains unclear who reported his body to police. The nearest structures are more than a mile away, but makeshift fire pits and trash showed evidence of camping in the area.

‘Going to be the hardest thing’

Roy Jaggers’ parents intend to travel to Nye County for every court hearing in the case. His mother said she wants to “make sure that justice is served.”

“It’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Jerry Jaggers said, adding that he’s going to “close my eyes and try not to listen.”

He will be able to breathe again when the court proceedings over, he said.

After police identified Roy Jaggers’ body, they went to the home he shared with his mother, near Sahara Avenue and Nellis Boulevard. She and neighbors told deputies that her son was last seen at Pate’s home, where Pate was arrested after police executed a search warrant.

Police later arrested Dent at his home on the 7000 block of Twain Harte Street, near Windmill Lane and Decatur Boulevard. Officials then identified Mehn as a suspect and searched his home in Pahrump.

Mehn was arrested on state Route 160 while driving to Pahrump, officials said.

Pate was arrested in Clark County in 2012, but her misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia charge was dismissed. Mehn had no criminal history in Clark County other than a traffic citation.

Dent was released from prison in January after pleading guilty in May 2019 to resisting a public officer with a firearm, child abuse and battery constituting domestic violence, prison records show. He previously had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge in 2017, and in 2018 he pleaded no contest to a separate misdemeanor domestic battery charge, court records show.

The three remain at the Nye County Detention Center without bail. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled to start Thursday.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.