A man accused of fatally shooting a 29-year old man last month in north Casper pleaded not guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder.
Authorities suspect Jason John, 32, shot and killed Wesley Willow Jr. around 4 a.m. Aug. 3 at a trailer home on the 1200 block of North Center Street.
First-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison or death. Judge Catherine Wilking told Assistant District Attorney Dan Itzen that prosecutors have five days to notify the court on whether they will seek the death penalty.
John — who is represented by defense attorney Tim Cotton — remained composed during his court appearance. The defendant told the judge he has never been diagnosed with a learning disability or mental disorder that would interfere with his capability to plea on his own behalf.
The judge kept in place the defendant’s bond, which was set at $150,000 during his initial court appearance last month. A public defender said at the time that the incident appeared to be an act of self-defense.
After the arraignment concluded Tuesday, one of the victim’s family members shouted out in the courtroom.
“He shot and killed my [expletive] brother,” said the woman, who then dissolved into tears and repeated the word “evil.”
Courtroom guards escorted the woman and several other supporters of the victim into the hallway. The group clung to one another and sobbed.
According to court documents in the case, dispatchers received a call at 4:12 a.m. Aug. 3 from a woman who said one man had shot another. The woman who called said she had hidden the gun.
When police arrived at the scene, they found Willow on the floor. Police tried to revive him but could not do so, the documents state.
John later made unsolicited statements that he had shot Willow, according to police.
A woman who was present at the time of the shooting said John had sent her a text message “regarding (her) and children,” the documents state. When the woman, Willow and another man went to confront John, Willow walked up the stairs to the trailer first. The woman said John fired a gun, while she and the other man took cover. Willow fell through the open door of the trailer, the documents state the woman said.
John’s mother told police she was at the trailer at the time of the shooting. She said she went to bed and awoke to gunshots. When she entered the living room, she saw John standing over Willow’s body. She took the AR-15 from him and placed it at the foot of her bed, where police recovered it.
John told police in a statement through his attorneys that he had received multiple phone calls from Willow, including one in which he said he would assault John, prior to the shooting. When Willow and the other two people arrived, John warned them away with the gun, but Willow continued through the trailer’s front door, the documents state he said. John then shot Willow, according to the documents.
According to a detective’s search of John’s cell phone, he texted the woman at 3:54 a.m., saying he would “blow you away.” Five texts sent about 10 minutes later asked where the other people are and stated “I’m waiting,” and “I’m ready.”
Only one text message sent from the woman’s phone is reproduced in the documents. The message states: “Stay up homie. All good. I’m on my own s—t,” in response to John’s two initial texts.
The documents state that the woman otherwise did not text John in response to his flurry of messages.
The court documents note that John is 9 inches taller than Willow and outweighs him by 115 pounds.