By Chrissy Suttles
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — A Laramie County Circuit Court judge advanced a first-degree murder charge Friday for a 78-year-old accused of killing a man outside a Belaire Avenue home on Dec. 5.
Laramie County Circuit Judge Thomas Lee bound over the charge for Charles Richmond and held his bond at $100,000 cash during Richmond's preliminary hearing.
Richmond is accused of shooting John-Paul "J.P." Birgenheier, 41, three times with a 12-gauge shotgun following an altercation over property.
During the hearing, Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg and Richmond's attorney, Brian Quinn, asked Cheyenne Police Department Detective Allison Baca to describe the crime scene, review witness testimony and outline pathologist findings.
Cheyenne Police Department officers were called to a report of gunfire at 3338 Belaire Ave. around 4 p.m. Dec. 5. When they arrived, they saw Birgenheier lying on the ground near a camper outside the home, Baca said.
During the investigation, Richmond approached one of the officers and said he was sorry for shooting Birgenheier. Officers took him into custody and interviewed him. Richmond told officers that Birgenheier stayed in a trailer outside the home and had access to the property.
Richmond told officers that Birgenheier was a meth user.
On Dec. 5, the two got into an argument about a missing pipe and whether Birgenheier owed Richmond money for food, Baca said.
The argument got physical, and Birgenheier pushed Richmond down three times inside the house and threatened to hit him with a broken chair leg. Birgenheier then left the house.
Baca said a witness who stayed in the camper with Birgenheier heard shots and subsequent screaming from inside. The witness left the camper to see Richmond shoot Birgenheier with a camouflage-colored shotgun.
Inside the home, police officers found a shotgun fitting the witness's description of the weapon.
Baca said pathologists found three gunshot wounds on Birgenheier's body. The first two, one in the arm and one in the lower back, were deemed survivable by experts. The third, which entered through the scrotum region, was not, Baca said.
Quinn questioned whether or not that third fatal shot could have been the result of a round ricocheting off pavement and accidentally hitting Birgenheier. Baca said while there was no pavement at the crime scene, the area did have a number of household items on site.
Quinn asked for the case to be dismissed due to insufficient evidence of premeditated malice, but Lee said he believed there to be "ample evidence" to support the first-degree murder charge.
The investigation is still ongoing pending results from the Wyoming State Crime Lab and additional evidence reviews.