Defense wants records sealed in death penalty case

2012-01-03T13:23:00Z 2012-01-03T18:01:17Z Defense wants records sealed in death penalty caseThe Associated Press The Associated Press
January 03, 2012 1:23 pm  • 

CHEYENNE, Wyo.  — A lawyer representing a man accused of killing two people and wounding a third in a shooting spree at his house last summer wants to seal the court records.

Robert Rose, lawyer for Nathaniel Castellanos, asked District Judge Peter Arnold to seal the prosecution's notice that it intends to seek the death penalty and other records in the case.

Prosecutor Mike Blonigen filed papers in Laramie County District Court on Friday announcing he will seek the death penalty against Castellanos. Castellanos has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

Castellanos is accused of fatally shooting 21-year-old Corey A. Walker and 25-year-old Megan L. McIntosh, both of Cheyenne, on Aug. 23 in Castellanos' home on Cheyenne's northeast side. Another woman, 23-year-old Amber J. McGuire, was wounded.

Rose, a lawyer in the state public defender's office, declined to comment on Tuesday. State Public Defender Diane Lozano referred questions to Rose.

Heather Nuckols, Arnold's assistant, said the judge hasn't decided whether he will hold a hearing on Rose's request. The whole court file, including the motion to seal the records itself, was unavailable for public review while the request is pending, she said.

Blonigen said Tuesday that Rose's request "doesn't really cite any real authority" for asking to seal the records.

"It's kind of unclear to me," Blonigen said. "It looks like they want to seal everything until the judge hears some motions. It's kind of a rambling discourse."

Blonigen said there's a hearing in the case set for Jan. 23. He said he wasn't clear whether he would get a chance to argue against sealing the records.

"It's very odd to me," Blonigen said. "Usually if you're going to close a public record, or deprive public access, you have to give people an opportunity to be heard first."

Blonigen, the district attorney in Casper, is handling the case as a special prosecutor because Castellanos' ex-wife has worked in the Cheyenne district attorney's office.

Blonigen declined to specify in an interview why he's seeking the death penalty, saying he couldn't discuss particulars of the pending case.

Wyoming law allows imposition of the death penalty in first-degree murder cases in which aggravating circumstances include the defendant knowingly creating a great risk of death to two or more people.

Police Detective John C. Pederson II testified in October that his investigation showed Castellanos left his job early the day of the shootings because he was upset that his ex-wife had threatened to get custody of their children. Castellanos had worked as a records and data management specialist at the Wyoming Department of Education.

Castellanos met up with the three victims that night at a bar, Pederson said. The detective said Castellanos had known McIntosh and apparently was interested in a romantic relationship with her but didn't know the other two victims before they went to his house from the bar.

A neighbor called police to report gunshots and a woman screaming at Castellanos' home shortly before 11 p.m.

Castellanos told officers that a drug dealer had been in his house and had shot the victims before running away, Pederson testified.

But Pederson said officers already outside Castellanos' house didn't see anyone leave after hearing the last gunshot and found no indication that anyone other than he and the victims had been present.

 

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