CHEYENNE — The Associated Press filed papers Wednesday seeking to oppose a defense lawyer's request to seal court records in a pending Wyoming death penalty case.
Nathaniel Castellanos of Cheyenne has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in the August shootings of 21-year-old Corey A. Walker and 25-year-old Megan L. McIntosh, both of Cheyenne. Castellanos pleaded not guilty to attempted murder in the shooting of another woman.
Prosecutor Mike Blonigen filed notice last week he intends to seek the death penalty against Castellanos, who's in his early 30s.
The notice would list what aggravating factors Blonigen alleges support the death penalty. Blonigen declined to comment on the notice. One aggravating circumstance under Wyoming law is that a defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to two or more people.
Defense lawyer Robert Rose asked Laramie County District Judge Peter Arnold to seal Blonigen's death penalty notice and other case records. Arnold hasn't acted on Rose's request, but his office declined to allow an AP reporter access to the court file while the request is pending.
Representing the AP, attorney Bruce Moats filed papers seeking to intervene in the case. Moats argued that courts routinely grant media representatives the opportunity to be heard where public access to criminal court proceedings is an issue.
"The circumstances surrounding the death of a person because of alleged criminal acts are not private events and such crimes are newsworthy," Moats wrote.
Rose declined to comment Tuesday on his motion to seal the records. An attempt to reach him for comment Wednesday was unsuccessful.
Blonigen said Wednesday he would respond in court to the AP's request.
"I tend to believe that things should be open if at all possible," Blonigen said. "A statement of what aggravating factors you're relying on to me is no different than a criminal charge. It's basically makes a statement of allegations. And that's what we'll have to decide when we finally have a hearing on this."
John C. Pederson II, a Cheyenne police detective, testified at an October hearing that his investigation showed Castellanos met the three victims at a bar on the night of the shootings.
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. Castellanos had worked as a records and data management specialist at the Wyoming Department of Education.
Police responding to a report of gunshots at Castellanos' home on Cheyenne's northeast side Aug. 23 found Walker and McIntosh dead and the other woman wounded.
Pederson testified Castellanos told officers that a drug dealer had shot the three before running away. Officers found no indication that anyone other than Castellanos and the victims had been inside, he said.