HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An 18-year-old man accused of shooting a family that stopped to help him on a Montana roadside was released from a Wyoming jail two weeks earlier while facing unrelated burglary and drug charges, a court official said Friday.
Jesus Deniz, also known as Jesus Deniz Mendoza, made his first court appearance Friday on a murder warrant in U.S. District Court in Billings. The Worland, Wyoming, man is accused in the shooting deaths of Jason Shane, 41, and his wife, Tana Shane, 47.
The couple's daughter, 26-year-old Jorah Shane, was shot in the back while trying to run from the gunman Wednesday in the small town of Pryor on Montana's Crow Indian Reservation. She is recovering in a Billings hospital, a relative said.
Deniz and a public defender appeared at the brief hearing in Billings, where Deniz told a magistrate judge he had reviewed the charges against him. U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby scheduled a preliminary hearing for Aug. 5 and ordered Deniz into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Deniz has never been convicted of a crime, federal and Wyoming officials said, but he is facing recent charges in Wyoming.
He was arraigned July 2 in Washakie County on a marijuana possession charge and four days later on a felony burglary charge, according to chief court clerk Christy Schneider.
Bail was originally set at $10,000 for the burglary charge and $5,000 for the possession charge, but that was amended to two signature bonds July 16, Schneider said. That allowed Deniz to leave jail without putting up any cash.
Washakie County Attorney John Worrall said Deniz's parents accused him of breaking into their car and stealing jewelry and handguns. Deniz said in court that the guns belonged to him, Worrall said.
Deniz's attorney asked a judge for the signature bonds because Deniz's parents wanted him in their care. Deniz met his requirement to check in with the sheriff's office daily until Wednesday, the day of the Montana shooting.
"There was nothing at all to point to this kid doing anything like this," Worrall said, referring to the shooting. "Based on the information at hand, when Mr. Deniz was released, there wasn't a public protection issue except for his parents, and they wanted him at home."
Deniz's attorney in the Wyoming case, Richard Hopkinson, agreed with Worrall's assessment.
"The allegations in Montana certainly don't coincide with the way he appeared to me," he said.
The Billings Gazette first reported the details of Deniz's release.
On Wednesday, the Shane family had stopped to offer Deniz roadside assistance when he pointed a rifle at them, forced them out of their car and demanded money, according to the criminal complaint.
When they told him they had none, Deniz ordered them to walk, then opened fire, the complaint said.
Deniz told FBI agents he shot the victims because he was getting tired of waiting around and because the daughter laughed at him.
Additional details about Deniz began to emerge Friday. U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement officials released a statement that said Deniz is from Mexico and received permanent resident status in 2013.
Worrall and Hopkinson said Deniz and his family had been living in Worland for years before Deniz attained permanent resident status.
"He's lived here basically most of his life," Hopkinson said.
"If he is convicted for a criminal offense that allows him to be removed from the country, after the completion of sentence, ICE intends to take him into custody and pursue his removal from the United States," the agency's statement said.
Deniz had no attorney of record before his initial court appearance, and messages left at his home were not returned.