Clair McFarland, State Courts and Crime Reporter
The deadline approaches for two Cheyenne teens implicated in the Jan. 9 accidental killing of a 16-year-old girl to reach plea agreements with the state of Wyoming, if they want to.
Tirso Munguia, 19, pleaded not guilty Feb. 22 to involuntary manslaughter after telling police that he was handling a 9 mm pistol while sitting behind Angelina Harrison, 16, in a car in Cheyenne, according to court documents.
The charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Munguia’s trial is set for May 15.
Clock Is Ticking
Often in criminal cases defendants will plead not guilty initially, then negotiate a plea agreement with prosecutors in the months leading up to trial. Alternately, they can go to trial and let a jury or judge decide whether they are innocent or guilty.
Munguia has until March 30 to enter a plea agreement if he wishes, according to a Feb. 28 case management order by Goshen County District Court Judge Edward Buchanan. The attorneys on the case can apply for an extension, though there’s no promise that Buchanan would grant one.
And For Accessory
The other teen in the case, Cody Nicholson, 18, is charged with accessory after the fact for allegedly fleeing the death scene on foot, unloading the pistol and stashing it in a closet at his grandmother’s house.
The charge is punishable by up to three years in prison and $3,000 in fines.
Nicholson also pleaded not guilty Feb. 22 and faces the same trial date as Munguia.
He also has a March 30 deadline to establish a plea agreement if he wishes to.
Nicholson was released from jail last month, according to a release order in the case.
Munguia told police he was sitting in the back of a vehicle while a 26-year-old woman was driving. Munguia sat behind Harrison, who was in the front passenger seat, and Nicholson sat behind the driver, according to evidentiary court affidavits filed in January.
Nicholson took the gun out of his sweatshirt pocket and put it on the seat between him and Munguia, both men told police.
Munguia started “manipulating” the gun with his hands, the affidavits relate.
“Be careful, there’s one in the head,” Nicholson reportedly said.
Nicholson was looking at his phone and Munguia was still handling the pistol when the weapon “just went off,” according to their interviews.
A bullet struck Harrison in the head. She appeared unresponsive and was bleeding from her mouth, according to the account of Nicholson’s interview.