By Sarah Elmquist Squires

Managing Editor

It took investigators almost three years to identify the suspects following the January 2019 murders of Jocelyn Watts and Rudy Perez, and the process since has not been speedy either. Last week, the alleged shooter, Brandon Monroe, entered a not guilty plea and a plea of not guilty by reason of mental illness to the felony and first-degree murder charges in the couple’s death. 

The pleas came during a hearing in which Monroe was found to be mentally competent to proceed in his defense. Following multiple delays in Monroe being admitted to the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston, he’s now been treated there, and on Friday Dr. Katherine Mahaffey appeared by video and indicated he was fit to proceed. 

Monroe, now 20, was 16 at the time of the murders. According to affidavits filed in the case, Monroe, along with Korbin Headley, Bryce Teran and Patrick Sunrhodes, drove to the home of Watts and Perez on January 3, 2019, after a night of drinking. Monroe allegedly used methamphetamine and stated he needed to “take care of business.” While wearing gloves and brandishing a gun, Monroe allegedly said he’d bleached the bullets in order to not leave fingerprints, and loaded them into the firearm. 

Monroe then allegedly forced his way into the home, with Sunrhodes on his heels; Monroe then entered the bedroom and several shots rang out. Sunrhodes reportedly told investigators he entered the bedroom and found Monroe on top of Perez when Monroe shot him in the head. Sunrhodes also told investigators he saw a woman lying facedown on the floor next to him. Monroe then allegedly picked up a shotgun from the closet and the pair left the residence. 

Defense attorney Curtis Cheney said they will request an examination regarding Monroe’s potential mental illness at the time of the murders. If that process concludes that Monroe was competent at the time, he’s scheduled for a jury trial beginning on September 18 of this year.