Wyoming News Briefs NOVEMBER 6
October 31, 2019
Cheyenne man arrested in woman's murder
POWELL (WNE) — Law enforcement officials say evidence indicates that a former local resident murdered a woman in Cheyenne over the weekend, then attempted to hide her body in a remote area south of Cody Saturday afternoon.
The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation has identified the victim as 40-year-old Angela Elizondo; agents believe Elizondo was killed in Cheyenne, where she lived, the division told media outlets on Tuesday.
The suspect charged in connection with the case is 45-year-old Joseph C. Underwood of Cheyenne, a former Cody resident with a lengthy criminal record.
Underwood was arrested just hours after a hunter found Elizondo’s body along a two-track road west of Wyo. Highway 120, roughly halfway between Cody and Meeteetse. According to charging documents, Underwood returned to the area where he'd allegedly left the woman’s body late on Saturday night and was spotted by a Park County Sheriff’s deputy who’d been posted at the crime scene. A pursuit and then a roughly 2 1/2 hour standoff with officers ensued, in which Underwood reportedly threatened to shoot himself.
The Park County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has charged Underwood with four criminal counts in connection with the incident: disposing of a human body in order to conceal a felony crime and possessing a firearm despite a prior conviction for a violent felony, plus misdemeanor counts of fleeing or eluding police and interference with a peace officer.
Although Underwood has not been formally accused of killing Elizondo, Deputy Park County Prosecuting Attorney Jack Hatfield said at a Tuesday morning court hearing that Underwood “is likely going to be charged with murder in the coming weeks, once the autopsy is completed and the investigation’s complete in another county.”
Attempted murder charge reduced in face of new info
GILLETTE (WNE) — A woman who didn’t want to lie under oath upended the prosecution’s case against a Michigan man who had been accused of attempted first-degree murder.
Shelbie Mitchell had told investigators since Sept. 22, 2018, that she did not have a gun or make any threats with one while at Mingles Lounge in Gillette on that day.
That came despite comments from three cell tower workers who all told police in the hours after a shooting at the bar that a woman had pointed a gun at them during a physical fight in the volleyball area outside the bar.
The shooting, which happened about 2:30 a.m. outside the front door after the bar had closed, wounded George Mitchell, her father, in the upper thigh.
But before she was scheduled to testify in the case against D’Marco Jones, she admitted to court officials Friday morning that she hadn’t told the truth in the case.
Shelbie Mitchell’s statement caused prosecutors over the weekend to reduce the charge against Jones to possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Attempted first-degree murder has a penalty of life imprisonment.
Jones pleaded no contest Monday to the reduced charge and as part of a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a four- to five-year prison sentence, suspended in favor of three years of supervised probation.
Woman sentenced to prison in 2018 fatal accident
LARAMIE (WNE) — Tonya Hightower, 48, was sentenced Tuesday to 10 to 20 years in prison for aggravated vehicular homicide, with credit for the nine months she has already spent incarcerated.
At about 5 a.m. March 21, 2018, Hightower fell asleep while driving a tractor-trailer west on Interstate 80, causing a wreck that killed 57-year-old Laramie man Vidal Madera.
Hightower originally pleaded not guilty. In August, a jury determined that her decision to operate a vehicle while knowingly fatigued constituted a level of recklessness that met the standard for aggravated homicide by vehicle and found her guilty.
At the scene, Hightower told a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper that she had taken some leftover pills from a 2017 surgery, including hydrocodone, before the wreck.
She did not test positive for narcotics when a blood draw was conducted later, according to court records.
Defense attorney Brandon Vilos asked for leniency, as Hightower had no prior criminal record, and no driving infractions in her 22 years as a commercial truck driver.
Albany County prosecutor Benjamin Harwich said there was “not a single bit of mitigating information,” and that the state was obligated to request the maximum sentence.
Judge Tori Kricken said this cases like this are some of the most difficult to address.
“There can be no winners, no matter what the court does,” she said.
Competency evaluation ordered in machete threat
GREEN RIVER (WNE) — A man accused of threatening his father with a machete will undergo a competency evaluation to determine if he’s mentally fit to proceed.
Robert Mandros, 20, Green River was bound over to the Third District Court at a preliminary hearing to aggravated assault and battery, a felony, and property destruction and defacement, a misdemeanor. However, he hasn’t been arraigned yet due to a court-ordered evaluation.
According to a motion for mental examination and to suspend proceedings document, during Mandros’ arraignment, Mandros “appeared confused and could not answer questions from the court in a lucid manner.”
This document also states Mandros met with his attorney and the attorney was concerned whether or not Mandros was competent to stand trial.
On Oct. 7, an order of evaluation for competency to proceed and suspending proceedings order was filed.
According to court documents, on Aug. 21, at 8:17 p.m. officers responded to a home in Green River for a report that Mandros was threatening his father, Johnny Mandros, with a machete.
Upon arrival, Green River Police officers met with Robert and told him to sit on the ground and he did so.
They then spoke with Johnny, who stated his son allegedly kicked the front door of his residence in. Officers noticed the wood around the door’s frame was damaged.
Once his son gained access to the residence, he retrieved a machete from his closet and allegedly threatened Johnny with it, Johnny told the officers. After he allegedly threatened his father, he put the machete back in the closet.