CHEYENNE — A Cheyenne man accused of gunning down two people and critically wounding a third at his house last summer faces a possible death sentence if found guilty in a trial set to start in mid-August.
Nathaniel Castellanos, who’s in his early 30s, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in the August 2011 shootings of Corey Walker, 21, and Megan McIntosh, 25, both of Cheyenne.
Castellanos also has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder in the shooting of another woman, Amber J. McGuire. She survived despite being shot in the head.
Defense lawyers urged Judge Peter Arnold at a court hearing on Tuesday to reject some of the prosecution’s claims that aggravating factors support seeking the death penalty against Castellanos.
Arnold didn’t make a final ruling during the hearing, but said he’s inclined to decide the issues as they come up at trial, scheduled to start Aug. 14 in Cheyenne.
Castellanos, who worked as a records and data management specialist with the Wyoming Department of Education before the shootings, sat silently in court on Tuesday with his defense lawyers. His hair was closely shaved and he wore a dark suit and shackles.
Police Detective John C. Pederson II testified in October that his investigation showed Castellanos left his job early the day of the shootings because he was upset that his ex-wife had threatened to get custody of their children.
Pederson testified last year that Castellanos met up with the three victims that night at a bar. Castellanos had known McIntosh and apparently was interested in a romantic relationship with her, the detective said, but he didn’t know the other two victims before they went to his house from the bar.
A neighbor called police to report gunshots and a woman screaming at Castellanos’ home on Cheyenne’s north side shortly before 11 p.m.
Castellanos told responding officers that a drug dealer had been in his house and had shot the victims before running away, Pederson testified.
Defense lawyer Rob Oldham told Arnold on Tuesday that the defense team hasn’t identified the intruder and doesn’t have his name.
Pederson said officers were already outside Castellanos’ house when they heard the last gunshot and didn’t see anyone leave. The detective said officers found no indication that anyone other than Castellanos and the victims had been inside.
Authorities say records show Castellanos purchased the 9-mm pistol used in the shootings.
The Natrona County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting Castellanos because his ex-wife had worked for the DA’s office in Cheyenne.
Prosecutor Michael Schafer said McGuire heard McIntosh begging for her life before Castellanos shot her.
Schafer said Castellanos shot both McGuire and McIntosh to eliminate them as witnesses after he first shot Walker. State law can allow the death penalty for homicides committed to eliminate witnesses to a crime.