The man suspected of shooting and killing a Pryor couple after they stopped to help him on the side of the road denied the charges Friday.
Jesus Yeizon Deniz Mendoza, 18, appeared in U.S. District Court of Montana in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby and pleaded not guilty to five felony counts. Mendoza will be held in custody pending further court proceedings, Ostby said.
The charges include two counts of first degree murder for shooting and killing Tana Shane, 50, and her 52-year-old husband, Jason Shane, on July 29 on Pryor Gap Road on the Crow Indian Reservation.
The additional felonies include three different assault charges: assault with intent to commit murder; assault with a dangerous weapon; and assault resulting in serious bodily injury, for shooting the couple’s daughter, 24-year-old Jorah Shane.
The Shanes were enrolled members of the Crow Indian tribe.
Members of the Shanes’ extended family and friends were present in the courtroom to watch Mendoza’s arraignment. Mendoza’s adoptive parents were present as well, sitting with a Spanish-speaking court interpreter.
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The complaint filed earlier with the U.S. District Court said Tana Shane picked up her husband and daughter to assist Mendoza, who was stuck on the side of the road. When the three got to Mendoza, he pulled out a gun and told them to get out of the car and asked them for money.
When they told him they didn’t have any, he told them to walk away from the car. Jorah Shane heard shots and began to run even after hearing her mother scream and feeling blood running down her face, the result of a bullet wound, according to court documents. She felt a bullet hit her back, turned, and watched Mendoza get into her family’s car and began to drive off.
Jorah Shane said she saw Mendoza turn the car around and thought she heard more gunshots. She was taken to the hospital by her family.
In court, Mendoza maintained his appointed counsel, Federal Defenders David Merchant and Steven Babcock. U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan P. Watters will be the presiding judge for the rest of Mendoza’s appearances, which have not yet been scheduled.
The murder charges carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison upon conviction, and the assault charges each have maximum prison terms between 10 to 20 years.
The case is in federal court because the victims are Native Americans on an Indian reservation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.