TORRINGTON – Family and friends of Maddie Cook embraced one another as the tears flowed after Monday’s change of plea hearing in the Eighth Judicial District Court, where Cook’s accused killer pleaded no contest to second-degree murder.
Sean Logan Pettus, the 32-year-old male accused of killing 20-year-old Goshen County resident Madison “Maddie” Cook, pleaded “nolo contendere” or no contest to an amended charge of second-degree murder and guilty to one count of first-degree arson, one count of felony theft and two counts of burglary, pursuant to the terms of a plea agreement between the prosecution and defense.
Around 50 people, many family members and friends of Cook were present in the Goshen County District Courtroom for Monday’s hearing with more than 10 law enforcement officers present.
Goshen County attorney Eric Boyer told the court an agreement had been reached between the prosecution and defense where Pettus would plead no contest to an amended charge of second-degree murder and guilty to the remaining counts. In return for the no contest plea, Pettus would be subject to a joint recommendation by the prosecution and defense for a life sentence in the Wyoming penitentiary. He would then be required to serve sentences for the remaining counts, consecutive, or one-after-the-other to the life sentence.
In short one-word responses, Pettus agreed to the conditions of the plea agreement and inquiries by both counsel and the judge. At one point, Korell had to ask Pettus to make eye contact with him when making responses as Pettus looked down or away when replying to Korell’s inquiries.
Pettus was informed of all his rights and the potential consequences of entering no contest and guilty pleas. He was informed his pleas would remove the opportunity to proceed to trial, and the second competency evaluation he had requested would be withdrawn and the order quashed. Pettus agreed to continue with the plea agreement and Korell quashed the order for the second competency evaluation.
The final condition of the plea agreement said Pettus would not be able to appeal the decision of the court. Pettus agreed to the terms of the agreement.
To establish the factual basis for the no contest plea, the state provided the court with the affidavit of probable cause submitted by Torrington Police Investigator Rebecca Wakamatsu, which was also the document establishing the facts of the case when the amended information was filed in the court.
Korell asked Pettus if he contested any of the facts contained in the affidavit of probable cause. Pettus said no.
Pettus’ attorney, Eric Palen, asked questions of Pettus to establish the factual basis for the remaining charges.
Through the questioning, Pettus confessed to maliciously starting a fire with the intent to destroy the property known as Sharon’s Hair Care by lighting it on fire with gasoline. He then confessed to taking a white 2007 Ford Taurus with the intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle and took a phone and change from the car, also with the intent to deprive the owner thereof.
Pettus agreed he had entered Sharon’s Hair Care to commit the felonious act of arson and had also entered the Ford Taurus with the intent to commit theft.
Having established a factual basis for the offenses, Judge Korell accepted the pleas for all five counts and ordered a presentence investigation report (PSI or PSR) be conducted by the Wyoming Department of Corrections Probation and Parole for consideration at sentencing by the court.
Pettus’ bond was revoked, and he was remanded to the custody of the Goshen County Sheriff’s Office, whose care he will remain under for approximately 60 days before he is sentenced in court.