Wyoming Man Pleads Guilty in the Murder and Assault of Crow Residents
BILLINGS – Jesus Deniz Mendoza, 19, of Worland, Wyoming, pleaded guilty today in Billings federal court to murder, assault, and firearm charges. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the government will recommend that Mendoza serve the statutory maximum for each offense of conviction. Specifically, it will request that the court impose life sentences for two counts of second degree murder and three counts of using a firearm during and in relation to crimes of violence, 20 years for assault with intent to commit murder, and 10 years for assault with a dangerous weapon, with each sentence to run consecutively, one after the other. On the firearm offenses alone, Mendoza faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 60 years that must run consecutively to the sentences imposed for the murders and assaults. United States District Court Judge Susan P. Watters presided over the change of plea hearing and set sentencing for August 10, 2017 in Billings.
In court documents, federal prosecutors stated that if called upon to prove its case at trial, the United States was prepared to demonstrate that on July 29, 2015, at approximately 10:11 a.m., Crow Agency dispatch received a call about a shooting on Pryor Gap Road in Pryor, Montana, between the St. Charles Mission School and Plenty Coups Park. The first law enforcement officers on the scene saw a deceased male and a deceased female lying in the road, face down. Also observed at the scene was a 1990 Ford Taurus, green, bearing Wyoming license plate number 20-2934, registered to the mother of Deniz Mendoza.
The daughter of the deceased male and female was with her parents when they were shot. She was interviewed by law enforcement and stated that her mother came to her house and told her that there was a guy that needed assistance. The three took the daughter’s car and drove past the St. Charles Mission School on Pryor Gap Road, where they met up with Deniz Mendoza who was in a green vehicle that was parked on the side of the road. When they approached Deniz Mendoza, he stepped out of his vehicle, pointed a gun at them, and told them to get out of the car. They complied and got out of their car. Deniz Mendoza told them to stand behind the car and asked them for money. They told him that they did not have any money. Deniz Mendoza then told them to start walking away from their car. As they were walking, the daughter heard a gunshot. When she turned around, she saw her father lying on the road. She started running. As she was running, she heard her mother scream, but she did not turn around because she was scared. She kept running and, as she did, she felt blood running down her face, which was later determined to be the result of a bullet wound. She heard another gunshot and felt a bullet hit her in the back. She then turned around and saw Deniz Mendoza get into her car and drive off.
The daughter was able to yell for help, and she caught the attention of some individuals at the St. Charles Mission School. A car drove to her location, and she told the female driver that she had been hurt. The female driver got out of the car and walked towards the daughter’s parents lying in the road. Fearing that the unknown male would come back, the daughter got into the female driver’s car. When the daughter saw her car coming back toward her, she got behind the wheel of the female driver’s car and drove away.
Two males drove from the St. Charles Mission School to the scene after someone had informed them that gunshots were fired nearby. They were at the scene when Deniz Mendoza returned to the scene in the daughter’s car, got out of the car, and started shooting. Because the female driver was outside of her car (the daughter had driven her car away), the males pushed the female driver into a ditch and told her to play dead. Both males confirmed that Deniz Mendoza shot at the female driver and pointed the gun at all of them.
As a result of a law enforcement bulletin, the daughter’s vehicle was located near Meeteetse, Wyoming by a Park County Wyoming Sheriff’s Deputy. Deniz Mendoza was driving the vehicle.
On July 29, 2015, law enforcement conducted a recorded interview of Deniz Mendoza. During the interview, Deniz Mendoza admitted to shooting three people with a .22 caliber rifle and then driving away from the scene in the victims’ vehicle. Deniz Mendoza also described the rifle that he used, and he told the interviewing agents that the rifle was still in the vehicle that he was driving when he was arrested.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lori Harper Suek, John D. Sullivan, and Joseph E. Thaggard and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Montana Highway Patrol.