The man accused of killing a couple outside Pryor on Wednesday was appointed two of public defenders during his initial court appearance Friday.
During a five-minute appearance in a courtroom packed with the victims’ family and friends, Jesus Yeizon Deniz Mendoza, 18, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby that he had been provided and read the five-page criminal complaint detailing his role in the murder of Tana Shane, 50, and her 52-year-old husband, Jason Shane, as well as the shooting and wounding of their daughter, 24-year-old Jorah Shane.
Because Mendoza has been unemployed since March and cannot afford an attorney, Ostby appointed a pair of assistant federal defenders, Steve Babcock and Dave Merchant, to defend him.
Mendoza’s preliminary hearing is set for 3 p.m. Aug. 5, in Ostby’s courtroom.
She ordered him held without bond in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility until the preliminary hearing.
According to the complaint, the Shanes had stopped Wednesday to help Mendoza, who was stranded after apparently running out of gas on Pryor Gap Road just south of Pryor.
According to the complaint, Mendoza shot the couple and wounded their daughter after demanding money.
The complaint states that during an interview with investigators, Mendoza admitted to shooting the three people with a .22 caliber rifle before driving away in their vehicle “because he was getting tired of waiting around, and because the daughter laughed at him.”
The complaint identifies the Shanes only by their initials. A family member, Bryce Hugs, gave The Gazette their names.
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Family members and friends of the victims declined comment after the five-minute court appearance.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Mendoza was legally admitted to the United States from Mexico in May 2013 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
"This individual does not have any criminal convictions, and, as a permanent resident, is not currently removable," the agency said Friday in a written statement. "Thus, an ICE detainer cannot be placed on the individual at this time. However, ICE is closely monitoring this case and coordinating with local authorities. If he is convicted for a criminal offense that allows him to be removed from the country, after the completion of sentence, ICE intends to take him into custody and pursue his removal from the United States."
Mendoza, of Worland, Wyo., also has a pending case in Washakie County for burglary and drug charges and had been released from jail there on a modified bond in mid-July.
Washakie County Attorney John Worrall said on Friday that Mendoza appeared in court on July 2 on a misdemeanor drug charge and then on July 6 for felony burglary. The burglary charge stems from accusations that Mendoza broke into the vehicle of a family member and stole a number of items, including jewelry and four handguns.
A judge initially set a bond at $15,000 in that case. On July 16, after discussions with Mendoza’s attorneys and family, the judge modified that bond and Mendoza was soon released on a signature bond, which doesn’t require the initial posting of a bond based on Mendoza’s promise that he’d follow the court’s orders, appear in court as directed and would pay a penalty if he violated those orders, Worrall said.
He also was required to check in twice daily with the court, which he had been doing until the morning of the shooting, Worrall said.
“At the time, there was no reason to believe he’d do something this serious,” he said. “It was a motion made by his attorney. It’s a decision that was not taken lightly based on the information available at that time.”