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Montano v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

March 25, 2019

MICHAEL PAUL MONTANO, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

          Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable Michael N. Deegan, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Kirk A. Morgan, Chief Appellate Counsel.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Deputy Attorney General; Caitlin F. Harper, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

          FOX, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Michael Paul Montano pleaded no contest to two counts of second-degree murder and guilty to two counts of mutilation of dead human bodies as part of a plea agreement. The district court accepted his pleas but rejected the agreement's joint sentencing recommendation. Mr. Montano appeals, claiming the State violated the plea agreement when it recommended the agreed-upon sentence, but made negative comments about Mr. Montano's conduct. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Did the State breach its plea agreement with Mr. Montano by commenting on the evidence?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Jody Fortuna and Phillip Brewer travelled to Gillette, Wyoming in late August 2016, to see their friend, Michael Montano. They were unaware that, at least in Mr. Montano's mind, the friendship had soured. Several days after the Fortuna and Brewer families reported the men missing, a witness informed law enforcement that she had seen Mr. Brewer's body in the bed of Mr. Montano's pickup truck. Later that day, a deputy found the truck parked near an intersection. As he approached the truck, he "immediately detected a strong foul odor, similar to that of an animal which had been dead for quite some time." He saw dried blood on the truck's tail gate and a blue 55-gallon barrel in the backseat. A search of the truck uncovered two plastic storage totes containing several plastic garbage bags of dismembered male body parts and clothing and documents belonging to Mr. Fortuna and Mr. Brewer.

         [¶4] The same day, law enforcement spoke with Mr. Montano's friend, Samson Bears. Mr. Bears reported that Mr. Montano had come to his workplace a few days earlier, asking if he could have one of his blue 55-gallon barrels. When Mr. Bears asked why he wanted one, Mr. Montano responded, "I gotta get rid of some bodies." According to Mr. Bears, Mr. Montano said he had shot Mr. Fortuna and Mr. Brewer, and one of them had "begged like a bitch." Afterwards, he cut up their bodies in his bathtub with a saw. Mr. Bears believed Mr. Montano had killed them because of a conflict over drugs and money. When Mr. Montano stabbed a plastic bag in the back of the truck, Mr. Bears "smelled a strong odor, similar to that of a deer which had been dead for a long time." Mr. Montano also told Mr. Bears that he had stored "brain matter" in a storage unit.

         [¶5] Law enforcement searched Mr. Montano's trailer, a motel room where he frequently stayed, and his storage unit. At the trailer, a blood-illuminating substance revealed signs of blood in several areas of the home, and law enforcement found several patched bullet holes and a fired bullet inside one of the walls. A search of the motel room uncovered a gun lock to a Ruger firearm and a list of "cleaning supplies that could be used to clean up the scene of a murder." At the storage unit, law enforcement discovered two more plastic totes containing body parts.

         [¶6] After his arrest, Mr. Montano told police he wanted the "death penalty" and that he had "never killed anybody before." He stated that he ran into Mr. Fortuna and Mr. Brewer after he had been using heroin and that they all returned to his trailer home. He claimed he had passed out and the next thing he remembered was being woken up by his girlfriend, Kylee Collins, who had found Mr. Fortuna's and Mr. Brewer's bodies in the bathtub. Mr. Montano told Ms. Collins to leave, saying that he "would take care of it." Mr. Montano said he left the bodies in the bathtub for a few days while deciding what to do and then cut them into pieces, placing the parts in plastic totes. Ms. Collins returned to the trailer home to help him clean, and the two of them drove around with the totes, looking for a place to bury the body parts. Mr. Montano initially denied shooting the men, but during a break in the interview said, "[F]*** it, I did it. I killed em." When asked to clarify the statement he again denied killing them, saying he did not remember pulling the trigger.

         [¶7] Mr. Montano and the State reached a plea agreement in which they agreed to jointly recommend concurrent sentences of 51.5 years to life on two counts of second-degree murder and 2.5 years to three years on two counts of mutilation of dead human bodies. In exchange, Mr. Montano agreed to plead no contest to the four counts. At his change of plea hearing, the court asked if the families approved of the agreement. The prosecutor responded: "I don't know that you can say 'approve' . . . we were advised ultimately to go forward," but that it was not possible to "fashion a sentence that's reasonable to someone who's lost a loved one." ...


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