New details released in the case against Mendoza, charged with killing Pryor couple

Posted at 1:32 PM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-06 14:32:05-05

More details have been released about the 2015 killings of a Pryor couple ahead of the defendant’s scheduled change of plea hearing in a Billings court room.

Jesus Deniz Mendoza, 19 years old, is expected to plead guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Billings to two counts of second-degree murder, assault with intent to commit murder, and gun charges.

Mendoza initially faced charges of first-degree murder for the deaths of Jason and Tana Shane in July of 2015.

The amended charges mean Mendoza will not face a mandatory life sentence and the decision will be left up to Judge Susan Watters.

According to court documents filed Friday by prosecutors, the daughters of the victims reported that she was at home when her mother came by and told her that a man’s vehicle was broken down and he needed help.

The woman joined her parents in driving over to Mendoza’s location near the St. Charles Mission School on Pryor Gap Road.

As the Shanes approached Mendoza, he pointed a gun at them and told the Shanes to get out of the vehicle, according to court documents.

The family exited the vehicle and Mendoza then demanded cash, according to the daughter.

When the family said they did not have any money, Mendoza told them to start walking away from the car.

Mendoza is expected to admit Tuesday that he then shot Tana and Jason Shane as they were walking away.

The victims’ daughter took off running and then felt blood running down her face, which she later determined to be a bullet wound.

The woman was also shot in the back.

She turned and saw Mendoza drive away in her vehicle and she ran to get help from people at the St. Charles Mission School.

Another woman drove down to help the victim.

The women coming to help got out of the vehicle and approached the bodies in the road.

The daughter then got into the woman’s vehicle and drove away, fearing Mendoza would return.

Two men from the school came down to help after they learned about the shooting.

Mendoza then returned and began firing more gunshots, according to prosecutors.

The men pushed the woman into the ditch and told her to play dead.

Mendoza fired shots at the woman and pointed the gun at the two men, according to court documents.

Mendoza then fled the scene and was later arrested in Wyoming, after a law enforcement bulletin was issued.

During a recorded interview with law enforcement, Mendoza admitted to police that he had shot three people with a .22-caliber rifle and said he then stole the victim’s car.

Mendoza said the murder weapon could be found in the stolen vehicle.

Prosecutors said in the plea agreement filed in February that they would recommend two consecutive life sentences.

Mendoza claimed at a competency hearing earlier this year that he had schizophrenia and was mentally unfit to stand trial.

But the psychologist testified that Mendoza only suffers mental health issues when he is under the influence of drugs.

Mendoza has been held at the Yellowstone County jail since his arrest.

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