Family Of Slain Casper Man Applauds After Killer Sentenced To 70+ Years

The family of Ryan Schroeder erupted in applause on Thursday as a judge sentenced Justin Armando Marquez to at least 70 years in prison for the stabbing death of Schroeder. Schroeder's daughter said the family has been left with "overwhelming grief."

Dale Killingbeck

May 30, 20246 min read

Justin Armando Marquez (left), Ryan Schroeder and family (right)
Justin Armando Marquez (left), Ryan Schroeder and family (right) (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A Natrona County District Court judge sentenced a 42-year-old Casper man to 70 years to life in prison Thursday for the June 26, 2021, killing of his “friend.” He then dumped his body into a remote creek. 

The sentencing followed emotional statements by the victim’s family and a statement by the defendant who asked the victim’s family to forgive him. 

A Natrona County District Court jury took less than four hours on March 1, 2024, to convict Justin Armando Marquez of second-degree murder for stabbing Ryan Schroeder, 36, more than two dozen times while he was a passenger in Marquez’s Hyundai Santa Fe.

Trial testimony and a police affidavit showed the pair had been at a Denver area motel together and “partied” overnight with others. Schroeder needed a ride back to Casper and Marquez testified at trial that the victim took some methamphetamine, became paranoid and then angry that Marquez would not let him stay at his house.

‘Self Defense Claim’

During trial, Marquez, who during an initial police interview denied being with Schroeder in Denver, claimed the stabbing was “self defense.”

Schroeder was reported missing by his mother on July 6, 2021, and a Casper police investigation led to the discovery of his body in a creek on August 30, 2021, at an abandoned homestead camp on the northeast side of Coal Mountain Road southwest of Casper.

In a pre-sentencing statement to the court and to Schroeder’s family, Marquez who appeared in court in a greenish jail top and orange bottoms read from a statement to Judge Joshua Eames. He told the judge he was “sorry I hid Ryan’s body” and that he “told the whole truth” at trial.


Marquez told the court that as a young adult, he turned his life around after run-ins with the law. He went to college, obtained a civil engineering degree and worked for the state as well as a Casper firm. He spoke of mentoring other students while in college. 

“To the Schroeder family I am deeply sorry,” he said. “I wish things could have gone differently. I am sorry that I hid Ryan’s body, I was scared about his (friends.) My decision still haunts me. Ryan was my friend and I loved him…”

Forgiveness Plea

He then asked the Schroeder family to forgive him.

“I am disheartened to be convicted of this crime,” he said. “I have faith God is not done with me. I believe God will use me in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Marquez’s attorney, Valerie Schoenberger, asked the court to consider a sentence on the lower end of the scale for the crime.

“Mr. Marquez is not a threat to the community at large,” she said. “In murder cases it is very rare to engage in this conduct in the future.”

She asked for a sentence of not more than 40 years.

In her statement to the court, Schroeder’s cousin, Sheri Schroeder, told the court that the victim was more like a brother to her than a cousin. She spoke of the intense grief and anguish she and other members of the family experienced during the days when the fate of her cousin was unknown.

“I didn’t get to spend much time with him those last few years, but I always thought we’d come back around to hanging out with each other again in our golden years,” she said of her cousin. “Justin has sentenced my family to a lifetime of sorrow … I ask for the sentence Justin receives to match the lifetime sentence that he gave to all of us.”

Family Statement

Schroeder’s daughter, Annabelle, read a statement from her grandparents and the rest of the family. She described Marquez as not only a murderer but a thief.

“He has stolen our family’s happiness and sense of wellbeing and left us with overwhelming grief,” she said. “There will always be an empty chair at family gatherings because Justin robbed us of the joy of all those memories and our happiness of seeing Ryan’s smiling face in all the family pictures.”

Annabelle Schroeder concluded the family statement by asking the judge to impose the harshest sentence possible.

“Forgiveness is not part of this narrative, and we ask you Judge Eames to sentence Justin Marquez to the fullest extent of the law and not a day less, to make sure he never takes another life or inflicts this pain on another family,” she said.

Natrona County District Attorney Dan Itzen asked the court to not only consider the crime but the attempted cover-up by the dumping of the victim’s body and leaving it to the elements. He said the 160-pound man had 40 pounds left after the elements destroyed his remains.

“The body was so badly decomposed that identification was made by his tattoo and dental records,” Itzen said. “The gravity of the murder itself cannot be overstated.”

 He told the court Marquez’s statement about his degree and education had no relevance in the court’s decision.

“The law applies to us all equally. It doesn’t matter that he has an education. What matters is 25 stab wounds,” he said. Itzen asked the judge for a sentence of 75 years to life.

Judge’s Words

Judge Eames told Marquez that he robbed parents of their son, siblings of their brother, and children of their father. And then he talked about how the victim’s body was discarded.

“You robbed (the family) of the ability to bury their son with dignity,” he said. 

The judge told Marquez that the jury rejected his self-defense claim and that Eames agreed with the jury’s decision considering the “multiple stab wounds to the body and those in the back.”

The judge said Marquez indicated that he had a good childhood, a good job, “and yet, here we are.”

He then sentenced him to 70 years to life for Schroeder’s murder and assessed him with various fines and costs.

“I hope you are able to find a purpose (while) in the Department of Corrections custody,” he said.

Marquez spoke briefly with his attorney after his sentence and was taken out of the courtroom. The judge adjourned the hearing. The Schroeder family clapped their hands in approval.

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Dale Killingbeck


Killingbeck is glad to be back in journalism after working for 18 years in corporate communications with a health system in northern Michigan. He spent the previous 16 years working for newspapers in western Michigan in various roles.