A St. Stephens man pleaded guilty Thursday to two first-degree murder charges stemming from a Riverton double homicide four years ago.
Brandon Donald Monroe, now 21, was 16 when he shot and killed Rudy Perez and Jocelyn Watt, both 30, in Watt’s Riverton home Jan. 4, 2019.
Monroe described his actions that night during a change-of-plea hearing Thursday held moments after he and the case lawyers struck a plea agreement promising Monroe two concurrent life sentences in prison. He will eventually be eligible for parole, but the governor is the only person able to release him, and not until at least 25 years have elapsed.
Was After ‘Marijuana And Some Money’
Monroe sat in an orange jumpsuit, bound in shackles and swiveling intermittently in his chair. His face is now a few shades paler than his jail booking photo from his arrest in late 2021.
“I was gonna go take some marijuana and some money,” said Monroe during an interview with his public defender, Curtis Cheney.
Cheney asked Monroe questions to establish a factual basis so Fremont County District Court Judge Jason Conder would accept Monroe’s guilty pleas and the case could progress to a later sentencing hearing within 90 days.
“Did you go to that home for the purpose of committing a robbery?” asked Cheney.
“Yes, sir,” answered Monroe.
Monroe said he had a gun during the break-in. Conder asked Monroe a few follow-up questions, including what he did with the gun.
“The dude, Rudy, pulled a weapon on me, so I pulled mine, and I ended up shooting him with it, and Jocelyn Watt,” said Monroe.
Each time anyone mentioned Watt’s name in court, a woman in the gallery exhaled heavily.
Conder also questioned Monroe about his education level and occupation. Monroe left school in ninth grade, he said, and hasn't had any occupation.
First Meth, Then Shooting
The case affidavit gives more detail about the murders. It says Monroe and other teenage boys were partying the night of Jan. 3, 2019,on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Monroe used methamphetamine, the affidavit says, and the four boys went to Riverton, where Monroe urged one of the boys, 15-year-old Patrick SunRhodes, to break into Watt’s home with him.
SunRhodes watched Monroe shoulder the door open, the affidavit says.
While the pair were in the home, SunRhodes heard multiple gunshots and entered the bedroom to find Monroe straddling a man, lying in the bedroom closet. The man lifted a hand as if to struggle, the affidavit relates.
SunRhodes also saw a woman lying beyond the bed, convulsing on the floor. He ran back to the truck. The affidavit says Monroe followed him.
Authorities later found both victims with multiple gunshot wounds to their heads, the case affidavit says.
No More Incompetency Defense
Conder listed Monroe’s rights and the possible consequences.
The judge emphasized that now that Monroe has pleaded guilty, he can’t go back and attempt a mental-incompetency defense.
Monroe in April invoked a plea of not guilty by reason of mental illness, but a Wyoming Department of Health forensic psychologist on May 30 determined that he doesn’t meet the criteria for that defense.
Neither Monroe’s defender nor the prosecutor, Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun, objected to that finding Thursday.
Within 90 Days
Conder ordered a pre-sentence investigation on Monroe’s life and said he’ll schedule a three-hour sentencing hearing within 90 days.
When the judge left the courtroom, many spectators stood, and Monroe turned around and acknowledged a crowd of family members standing behind him.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.