Wyoming Man Accused Of Killing Woman, Molesting Body Won’t Stop Writing To Judge

A man accused of murdering his on-and-off girlfriend and molesting her body won’t stop writing letters to his circuit court judge, even as they’ve been used as evidence against him.

Clair McFarland

May 23, 20243 min read

Joseph Underwood
Joseph Underwood (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The Wyoming man accused of killing his on-and-off girlfriend, molesting her body then dumping it in a ravine keeps writing letters to the judge presiding over his case.

It’s not clear if the letters are doing him any good, with the prosecution using some of the information in them against him.

Joseph Underwood, who turns 50 this year, has written at least six letters to Cody Circuit Court Judge Joseph Darrah throughout his two-year-long case in Darrah’s court, asking for different public defense attorneys and claiming he didn’t get a fair chance to prove he’s too mentally slow to be prosecuted.

“Hi sir, I need new public Defenders,” wrote Underwood in a letter filed Monday, adding that he’ll only speak with State Public Defender Diane Lozano or public defenders Brandon Booth or Sarah Miles.

“When I get a new public defender we will be contesting and or (sic) Appealing the court’s decision of fit to proceed on competency,” the letter adds. 

Darrah ruled last month that Underwood is indeed too mentally slow to process normal court proceedings in real time, but the court can make special accommodations and slow the procedures down enough to get Underwood through his case.

Underwood has railed against that decision in two letters now. Darrah’s decision cuts contrary to an Aug. 19, 2022, ruling by Laramie County District Court Judge Peter Froelicher that Underwood was not mentally competent at that time to stand trial for allegedly killing his on-and-off girlfriend Angela Elizondo in 2019. 

Booth and Lozano had both worked with Underwood on that case.

Park County authorities picked up the pieces of the case, immediately charging Underwood with disposing of a dead body to conceal a felony, possessing a gun unlawfully, interfering with police and eluding.

Underwood has been frustrated with his public defenders and with the judge proclaiming him mentally fit for prosecution.

“I did not get a fair competency hearing on March 27th sir,” wrote Underwood in another letter to Darrah, filed April 26.

Underwood is expected to face a preliminary hearing in the coming weeks. If case prosecutor Park County Deputy Attorney Jack Hatfield II can show the state has probable cause to keep prosecuting Underwood, then the case can advance finally to the felony-level Park County District Court — after nearly two years at the preliminary level.

Mental health deliberations and a Wyoming Supreme Court appeal have protracted the case’s timeline far beyond the typical felony case in a Wyoming circuit court.

Careful With That Pen

Underwood started writing to Darrah as early as Aug. 10, 2022, one month after Hatfield first charged him in Park County.

“Because of my mental illness defficiency (sic) the neurocognitive disorder … I cannot prosese (sic) everything in the court when it gest to going to fast (sic),” he wrote at that time.

Ironically, Underwood’s pointed, urging letters to Darrah became the basis of one of Hatfield’s arguments back in March, that Underwood understands what he’s facing, knows what’s going on and can apply himself toward what he wants.

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter