The man accused of killing two people in their bedroom four years ago in Riverton pleaded not guilty Friday in Fremont County District Court in Lander.
He also gave a concurrent plea of mental incompetency.
Brandon Donald Monroe is now 20 but was 16 when a family member of the deceased found Jocelyn Watt and Rudy Perez, who were both 30, dead in Watt's home on Jan. 5, 2019.
Monroe faces two counts of felony murder, or two counts of first degree murder, alternately.
Prosecutors sometimes charge alternate counts to give juries different theories under which they can convict defendants.
Each count is punishable by no less than life in prison but not by the death penalty, since Monroe was a minor during the alleged murders.
Competent To Proceed
Monroe appeared in the Lander courtroom Friday afternoon in an orange jumpsuit and shackles.
Before taking his plea, Judge Jason Conder had to determine whether Monroe was mentally competent to give a plea.
Conder had Monroe's mental faculties tested for competency prior to Friday's proceeding. One evaluation found that Monroe was not mentally competent, said Conder during the hearing.
But after restoration efforts by state mental health professionals, a psychiatrist submitted a report to the court Feb. 7 saying that Monroe is now mentally well enough to face his prosecution, said Conder.
"No other restoration is warranted," said Conder, citing the report. "Mr. Monroe is competent and fit to proceed in this matter."
Defendants in Wyoming cannot give pleas to charges unless they are mentally competent to do so.
Monroe then pleaded both not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness to all charges.
Conder ordered another evaluation, this time to determine whether Monroe was mentally ill during the alleged murders.
If the examiner finds that Monroe was mentally competent during the murders, Monroe still can advance to his Sept. 18 jury trial on his not guilty plea.
Multiple Gunshot Wounds
Authorities on the 2019 death scene found that Watt and Perez both had died of multiple gunshot wounds to their heads, according to a Dec. 10, 2021 affidavit in the case.
The Fremont County Attorney's office charged Monroe and his alleged accomplices Korbin Headley, Patrick SunRhodes and Bryce Teran in December of 2021 after a lengthy investigation by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation.
Conder sentenced Headley on an aggravated burglary charge last December. SunRhodes has pleaded no contest to another aggravated burglary charge but will not be sentenced until after Monroe's case is complete. Teran also pleaded no contest to an aggravated burglary charge but, as with SunRhodes, the state will not agree to have him sentenced until after Monroe's trial or conviction.
Both Teran and SunRhodes have agreed to testify at Monroe's trial if necessary.
Meth And a Gun
Monroe, SunRhodes, Teran and Headley were partying together in a vehicle on the Wind River Indian Reservation overnight Jan. 3 and 4, 2019, according to the affidavit.
SunRhodes was 14; Headley was 15; Teran was 21.
SunRhodes, according to the affidavit, recalled Monroe leaving the vehicle to retrieve methamphetamine and a gun from a house.
In the affidavit, SunRhodes said Monroe used the methamphetamine, then the four drove to the nearby town of Riverton and parked in an alley behind Watt's home.
Monroe said he needed to "take care of business," the affidavit alleged, adding that Monroe told SunRhodes, "Come wit' me."
SunRhodes followed Monroe to the house and, the affidavit said, he watched Monroe shoulder open the side door to the house.
The affidavit said that once in the house, SunRhodes heard multiple gunshots from a bedroom into which Monroe had gone.
When SunRhodes entered the room, court documents said, he saw Monroe straddling a man who was lying in the bedroom closet. The man lifted a hand as if to struggle, SunRhodes recalled.
"Get (him) off me," Monroe is reported to have said.
SunRhodes said he saw Monroe shoot the man in the head, then pick up a shotgun from the closet floor, said the affidavit, adding that SunRhodes also said he saw a woman lying beyond the bed, convulsing on the floor.
SunRhodes ran back to the truck; Monroe followed him, court documents said.
"Go, man go," SunRhodes recalled Monroe saying to Teran, who had been driving, according to court documents.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com