Cheyenne murder trial heads for district court

CHEYENNE — The first-degree murder case of a 33-year-old Cheyenne woman fatally shooting her fiancé was found to have probable cause and was bound over from Laramie County Circuit Court to Laramie County District Court.

Danelle Moyte, 33, of Cheyenne was charged with first-degree murder, three counts of child abuse and four counts of aggravated assault and battery. At her preliminary hearing in circuit court, Judge Thomas Lee found there was probable cause to bound over the first-degree murder charge, one of the aggravated assault and battery charges for reckless conduct and the three child abuse charges.

On May 16, Moyte allegedly shot her fiancé, Christopher Garcia, 39, at around 2 a.m. at the home they shared in the 2400 block of South Fourth Avenue. Three children were home at the time of the shooting.

Lee said he wasn't going to bound over three of the aggravated assault charges because there was no testimony brought up at the preliminary hearing saying Moyte pointed the gun at any of the children in the residence. He did say there was probable cause for Moyte's reckless conduct, which is why he decided to bound over the aggravated assault and battery for reckless conduct charge.

However, he brought up the fact that the state cited state statutes for child abuse with physical injury and there was no evidence that any of the children were physically injured at the time of the shooting. Lee said he thought there was probable cause to bound over the child abuse with mental injuries charges, but that's how Moyte was charged.

Public defender Diane Lozano said the state "ought to be careful," when charging because they're talking about a case where a man died.

Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove verbally amended the charges in court to be child abuse with mental injury. Lee allowed the amendment, but told the state it must follow the verbal amendment with a written one.

During the hearing, Curtis Burch, a Laramie County Sheriff's Department detective, said the kids who were home during the shooting were going to counseling due to the incident. One of the children said they were having flashbacks, another said they viewed Garcia as a stepfather and was upset they couldn't go to the funeral, and another stated they thought they could see blood everywhere.

Lozano also asked Lee to set a bond for Moyte, who was being held at the Laramie County jail without a bond since her initial appearance in May. Lozano said Moyte is potentially looking at life in prison, if convicted, and the state hasn't indicated whether or not it was planning on seeking the death penalty in this case.

Lozano said other people who are charged with murder in this jurisdiction have had a bond set, and Moyte should be considered for a bond. Lozano said Moyte is a lifetime Cheyenne resident and is unlike most criminal defendants.

Prosecuting attorney Caitlin Harper said since this is a capital murder case, a bond may or may not be imposed. If Lee chooses to set a bond, Harper said the state is requesting a $1 million cash only bond.

The state also requested that Moyte have no contact with her children that were involved in the case and no contact with law enforcement who were witnesses in the case.

"Can I do that?" Lee asked, over whether or not he could order someone not to have contact with law enforcement.

The state then specified two people that Moyte couldn't have contact with that responded to the scene on the night of the shooting that were former Laramie County Sheriff's Department employees.

Lee included those provisions and set Moyte's bond at $500,000 cash, and agreed with Lozano that setting the bond was more of a symbolic message than anything else.

According to the hearing:

The evening before the shooting May 15, Moyte was at her friends house with Garcia for a karaoke party. The two were drinking tequila and at one point in the night, Garcia went out to the garage to smoke a cigar with a friend. Another person at the party made a joke about the two smoking marijuana, even though they were not.

Moyte heard this joke and got mad at Garcia because she thought he was smoking marijuana. He tried to explain to her he wasn't and it was just a joke. Moyte and Garcia proceeded to get into an argument and Moyte eventually left the party.

A friend found Moyte and drove her home. When she got home, Moyte told the kids that were with her to turn off the lights and lock the doors so Garcia couldn't get inside. Moyte had a history of telling Garcia to leave the house whenever the two got into an argument.

Garcia was able to enter the house through an unlocked back door. He went there with his 13-year-old daughter, identified as A.G., to get their things. When the two entered the house, Moyte told Garcia to leave.

A.G. told law enforcement officers that the two of them were planning on leaving the house after they got their things. It was at this moment that Moyte got the gun from the upstairs gun safe and pointed it at Garcia and told him to leave again.

One of the kids that was home during the incident told law enforcement that they remembered Garcia telling Moyte that if she shot him, she would spend the rest of her life in jail. The child also told law enforcement that Moyte then racked the slide of her pistol, and Garcia told Moyte she just loaded the gun and she was scaring the children.

The two eventually went back upstairs, and one of the children told law enforcement they assumed Garcia was going to hurt Moyte because he went up the stairs after Moyte with clenched fists. At this point, Moyte then shot Garcia.

Moyte then left the house with her children and went to get her 16-year-old and 15-year-old sons for help, who were at a different home. The sons called 911 and told law enforcement Moyte had shot Garcia, and drove Moyte back to the house.

At the house, A.G. went into the house to call for her father after Moyte left. She told law enforcement that when she called, her dad responded. She said she went back outside to calm down, not realizing he'd been shot.

About 10 minuted later, she went inside to look for her father and found him lying upstairs bleeding. At this point, she called her friend who told her to call 911.

Law enforcement then arrived on scene and Moyte was taken into custody.