Fitness to proceed evaluation for 2019 Riverton double homicide suspect delayed; staffing issues at Wyoming State Hospital at play

All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

(Lander, WY) – Brandon Monroe, the fourth party involved in the January 4th, 2019 murders of Jocelyn Watt and Rudy Perez, will most likely be admitted to the Wyoming State Hospital mid January, and possibly as late as April.

Monroe is currently seventh on the waiting list for a spot at the Hospital.

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The update was shared at a status hearing held on November 10, overseen by the Honorable Judge Jason Conder.

Monroe’s case was stayed pending evaluation in order to determine his mental competence to proceed, and a status update hearing for that waiting process was ordered by the court since Monroe’s constitutional right to a speedy trial being was being delayed.

Questions were raised by State Prosecutor Patrick LeBrun about the waiting process and confirming a more certain date, the reason behind the delay, and the possibility of having “priority patients.”

Judge Conder added that testimony from the Hospital should answer what the procedure for admittance is, the reasoning behind Monroe being seventh on the list and the delay, and provide the most realistic date for admittance.

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Judge Conder also clarified that at no point was it the court’s intention to make it feel as though the Hospital was under attack, but an explanation for the delay was especially necessary due to the right to a speedy trial issue.

Representing the Hospital was Jackson Engels, Supervising Attorney General and supervisor in the Human Services Division, representing the Department of Health.

Engels stated firstly that the admittance policy for all patients is “first in, first served,” so as to avoid the potentiality of “playing favorites.”

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This was confirmed by Hospital Admission Coordinator Lisa Finkel, who stated that the wait list is determined by the date that the fitness to proceed evaluation order from the court is recieved.

In this case, there were six other patients ahead of Monroe.

Engels then inquired about reasons behind the delays.

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Finkel commented that initially, construction of new facilities was an issue, then staff outages from COVID quarantines caused many delays.

The biggest issue as of right now, however, is an overall staffing shortage that has led to an entire 24 bed unit being closed, “for at least six months,” Finkel further stated.

(This unit has been shut down since September of 2021, according to Hospital administrator Paul Mullenax, who was also later questioned. )

These shortages are leading to longer stays for patients in the recovery/evaluation processes, Finkel later added.

As for a more concrete date, Finkel was optimistic for the mid January estimate, noting that “several patients in front of Monroe should be processed pretty quick.”

Ultimately, both the State and Judge Conder found the explanation satisfactory.

“Delay is clearly reasonable here,” Judge Conder commented. “Would we like it to be done quick, or would we like it to be done right?”

Monroe’s case was then “further suspended until evaluation.”

The statuses of the three other parties involved in the case are currently in various stages; County 10 will provide updates on both those trials and Monroe’s when they become available.

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