Family Shocked At Teen's Murder Arrest: 'It Took All The Air Out'

As the family of a 15-year-old Cheyenne girl killed in a drive-by shooting mourns, so does the family of the 17-year-old accused of pulling the trigger, whose shocking arrest "took all the air out" of their world.    

Clair McFarland

August 30, 20238 min read

Johnny Muñoz
Johnny Muñoz (Courtesy Photo)

The excitement was palpable at a Cheyenne South High School hometown football game as the stadium lights switched on and a light drizzle fell.  

The team was losing.  

The quarterback handed the ball off to his smallish running back, who took off zigging and zagging. Defenders hit the ground as they missed the runner, who raced the tide of his own adrenaline into the end zone, scoring a touchdown in one of the happiest moments of his life.  

That’s how Johnny Muñoz’s loved ones remember him.

Those who made it to the game last season still remember his grin. The ones who didn’t make it to the game heard about it afterward.

The team still lost in the end, but Muñoz went out for pizza with his family afterward, and his uncle spent the next few days raving about how fast the teen is.

Muñoz, 17, now sits in the Laramie County Juvenile Detention Center waiting for his murder trial in connection with an April 30 drive-by shooting at Cheyenne’s Lincoln Park that left a teenage girl dead.

Charged as an adult, Muñoz is accused of shooting Baylee Carabajal, 15. Attorneys at his preliminary hearing indicated that the bullet was not meant for the girl, but for her cousin, 18-year-old Joey Carabajal Jr., who was also there.  

To every member of the Muñoz family who reached out to Cowboy State Daily, the idea of Muñoz being in jail for a serious crime is so incongruous with his character, it’s painful.  

“It took all the air out of a person. Just unreal,” said Paul Muñoz, the teen’s grandfather.

Paul and his wife, Patsy Muñoz, have raised Johnny since he was about 5 years old.  

Paul Muñoz recalled feeling helpless when he heard about the shooting, like for once there was absolutely nothing he could do to help his boy.  

“We were just trying to figure out what the heck was going on. It was a tough time,” said Paul Muñoz. “Even still to this day, it’s a tough time from day to day, just trying to figure out what’s going on here.”  

A memorial for a 15-year-old girl shot and killed in a drive-by at Lincoln Park in Cheyenne. Two teens have been charged as adults in the killing.
A memorial for a 15-year-old girl shot and killed in a drive-by at Lincoln Park in Cheyenne. Two teens have been charged as adults in the killing. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Quiet, Until … 

Paul and Patsy Muñoz said Johnny had never been in serious trouble.  

His other family members — a chorus of aunts and cousins — described him as a quiet kid who would soften for anyone who got to know him.  

“He just has a quirky little personality,” said Muñoz’s aunt, Lisa Anaya.

Johnny Muñoz seemed withdrawn to her when she first started dating his great-uncle, Dino, three years ago, but it didn’t take long for them to form a connection, the special bond of family members who love each other but each hate the other’s favorite basketball team.  

Muñoz is a Lakers fan, Anaya loves the Nuggets. They talked smack about each other’s teams. They elected the best players from each game.  

Pick Up Your Pants 

The day before Muñoz was arrested, Anaya and her boyfriend brought him a T-shirt they picked out for him in Greeley, Colorado. It was white and said, "Chicano Allstar,” a reference to the boy's Mexican-American heritage.     

“And he loved it. He said, ‘Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you,’” Anaya remembered.  

As Muñoz walked away from their car, his gym shorts sagged on his narrow frame.  

“Oh, by the way,” Anaya called out.  

“Yeah?” asked Muñoz.  

“Pick up your pants!” teased Anaya.  

Muñoz laughed and walked away.  

When Anaya realized she wouldn’t see Muñoz free again for a long time — if ever — the memory galvanized in her mind.   

Wrestling Buddy

Muñoz’s cousin Victoria Garcia hasn’t told her 7-year-old son that Muñoz is in jail.  

Garcia, 25, was close with Muñoz when they were both kids. Now that she’s a mother, Johnny Muñoz has been a mentor and friend to her older son.  

Garcia lives in Texas and has an accent to prove it.  

Muñoz would visit his cousin and his aunt, Margarita Muñoz, at least once a year, often twice.   

Though a teenager, Muñoz wasn’t too cool to bring along wrestler action figures and stage matches with his little cousin.  

“He loves Johnny with everything. He’d always ask about him. So to tell him would be kinda hard,” said Garcia. “To see how he’d react to it.” 

Garcia said she’s waiting to see how Muñoz’s case turns out.  

Whatever You Do, No Burritos 

For both Garcia and her mother Margarita Muñoz, their favorite memories of Johnny Muñoz happened when the family took a big trip to Disneyland about seven years ago. 

But they’re different memories.  

Muñoz was about 10. He was too shy to order exactly what he wanted from a waitress who struggled to hear him over the cacophony of the park's restaurant and the large Mexican-American family within it.  

“He wanted a bean and cheese burrito. But the lady didn’t hear him. So he just ordered menudo like everyone else was ordering,” said Garcia with a laugh. “And he don’t even like menudo. He just didn’t want to say again he wanted a bean and cheese burrito.” 

For Margarita Muñoz, her favorite memory is a snippet: it's the way he grinned when the family bought Mickey Mouse ears for all the children and he popped his onto his head.  

Muñoz said she’s struggled with strict caller restrictions at the jail. But if she could talk to Muñoz now, she said she would “just tell him how much we all love him, and we’re supporting him. We all have his back.”  

We Just Want You To Know

Patsy Muñoz said Johnny has been a joy to raise. She characterized him as respectful and humble.  

The grandmother has been avoiding the news since Johnny Muñoz's arrest.  

“I don’t read anything, but people come to me and they tell me,” she said.  

Garcia said she’s been startled at some of the vitriol commenters on social media have directed at Johnny Muñoz regarding his case, when they don’t yet know him and he hasn’t been convicted.  

“But with us being humans, and just how people are nowadays, I feel like just everybody doesn’t really want to know the whole story,” said Garcia. “They just want to know what they already know, and go from that — especially in the little town of Cheyenne.”  

Garcia said she hopes people will still look at Muñoz as a human being, full of different angles; good with kids, loving toward his family.  

The other family members echoed that wish.  

“We just wanted you to know that he’s a child that — you know, he's very calm and humble — and he has a little bit of sadness,” said Patsy Muñoz.

She went on to describe sad and tender expressions she’d observe in Johnny Muñoz throughout his childhood.  

“I just don’t want him being the bad kid,” Muñoz said. “They make him out to be this horrible, evil person, and that’s not Johnny.”  

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter