Mendoza agrees to plead guilty to Pryor murders
Thu, 03/02/2017 - 11:18am admin
By Andrew Turck, Big Horn County News
Jesus Deniz Mendoza, 19, has agreed as of last Thursday to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder for the July 29, 2015 killings of Pryor residents Jason and Tana Shane. Court documents state the Wyoming teenager admitted to shooting the couple with a .22 caliber firearm when they stopped that morning to help him with car trouble along Pryor Gap Road.
According to court documents, Mendoza also shot at the couple’s then 26-year-old daughter Jorah as she ran from the scene. Despite shots grazing Jorah’s head and hitting her in the back, she escaped and recovered in a Billings hospital. After stealing Jorah’s vehicle, Mendoza was captured promptly by a Park County sheriff’s deputy and Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper 120 miles south of the incident near Meeteetse, Wyo.
Mendoza told the FBI in an interview the day of the shooting that he decided to attack his helpers “because he was getting tired of waiting around” and one of the victims laughed at him.
Based on a search of his vehicle and his behavior during interrogation, court documents state, “it is believed that Mr. Mendoza had ingested a considerable amount of ‘spice’ prior to his arrest.” This drug, as documented in medical journals, is known to cause psychotic episodes and have delusional effects on long-term brain development.
The defendant has been diagnosed with mental problems known to be exacerbated by spice including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and post-traumatic and depressive disorders.
In pleading guilty to the counts, the agreement states, Mendoza admits to unlawfully killing the couple “with malice aforethought” within the boundaries of the Crow Reservation. He is also set to plead guilty to three counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence, one counts of assault with intent to commit murder and one count of assault with a dangerous weapon.
The case prosecution, defense and Mendoza signed the plea agreement, where the U.S. recommends Yellowstone County District Court impose consecutive life sentences on the defendant.
“Although advisory, the parties agree that the U.S. sentencing guidelines must be applied, and the calculation determined, as part of the protocol of sentencing,” the agreement states.
A plea hearing is scheduled for March 7 before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters at the James F. Battin Courthouse in Billings.