The case of a Cheyenne teen accused of killing a 15-year-old girl in an April 30 drive-by shooting has been transferred to a felony-level court.
Johnny Muñoz, 17, appeared in Cheyenne Circuit Court on Thursday to challenge the first-degree murder charges he faces in the girl’s death.
Circuit Court Judge Antoinette Williams transferred the case to the Laramie County District Court for felony-level prosecution over Muñoz’s attorney’s claims that the prosecutor didn’t show enough probable cause for the transfer.
Court testimony indicated that the girl was not the target of the alleged shooter, but that the bullet was meant to hit Cheyenne resident Joey Carabajal Jr. instead.
Bennett noted that Laramie County District Attorney deputy Bill Edelman has listed the girl as the victim in both charges against Muñoz — one for first-degree murder and one for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
“The evidence does not support that (the girl) was the target,” said Bennett.
To convict on first-degree murder, the state must prove that Muñoz premeditated his actions. To convict on the conspiracy charge, it must prove that Muñoz agreed with another person to cause the murder.
“The state has failed to establish there was any type of agreement between any people — even Mr. (Julian) Espinoza and Mr. Muñoz, to murder (the girl),” said Bennett. “There has to be some sort of premeditation for a first-degree murder charge.”
Even If The Wrong Person Got Killed
Judge Williams disagreed with Bennett and repeated Edelman’s argument that “intent follows the bullet.”
Williams said the teens’ decision to be in the same vehicle after the prom that night and travel to the park showed “circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy.”
Edelman had argued that Espinoza’s slow driving past the park during the gunfire volley suggested an agreement between Espinoza, who was driving, and Muñoz, the alleged shooter.
He also said the crime may be a first-degree murder even if “the wrong person got killed.”
Williams kept Muñoz’s bond at $250,000 cash-only, and said if he does bond out, he must stay away from his alleged co-defendants and many other people related to the case.
Espinoza’s preliminary hearing had been scheduled for Thursday, but now has been delayed to a date not yet set, according to the Cheyenne Circuit Court.
Espinoza, 16, is charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and for aiding and abetting first-degree murder for driving the Suburban past the park during the shooting.
Both Muñoz and Espinoza face life in prison if convicted, but they will not face the death penalty because they are minors.
Bennett questioned Cheyenne Police Department Detective Mike Fernandez at length during the hearing over the various bullet casings police found at the park.
There were .380 casings launched from the street. Police also found 9 mm casings in a different area after daybreak, Fernandez said.
Police believe the bullet extracted from the girl’s head during her autopsy was a .380, not a 9 mm, due to its grain weight. A juvenile identified as J.O. has admitted to police that he fired a 9 mm pistol at the slow-moving Suburban during the shootout.
Bennett emphasized how close .380 and 9 mm shells are in size.
She also asked Fernandez whether there was a third gun.
Fernandez said yes, a juvenile identified as Z.C.C. also had a gun.
“Have any of those firearms been recovered?” asked Bennett.
“No,” Fernandez said.
Reach Clair McFarland at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com