Moyte, Danelle

Danelle Moyte

CHEYENNE – The trial of a local woman accused of killing her fiancé while their children were present has been scheduled for early December, after being reset multiple times.

Danelle Ashley Moyte is currently charged with five felonies: first-degree murder, aggravated assault and battery, and three counts of child abuse with mental injury. She pleaded not guilty to the charges last July.

Moyte’s trial is set for 9 a.m. Dec. 6. Laramie County District Court has set aside eight days for the trial, according to an order from Judge Thomas Campbell.

According to court records, the trial was originally set for Nov. 9, 2020, after Moyte’s arraignment. It was then vacated and reset to Dec. 7, 2020, then to Feb. 9, then March 9, then May 10.

The Moyte case and two other criminal cases have been “significantly delayed” by both the COVID-19 pandemic and by the five-day trial limitation laid out in the court’s previous operating plans, according to Campbell’s order.

A jury trial operating plan adopted by the court and filed with the Wyoming Supreme Court on May 19 will allow judges to conduct jury trials in their own courtrooms, meaning trials can be held at the same time as one another, and can last longer than the currently allotted five days.

In an amended pretrial memorandum filed April 6, the state listed 29 witnesses it may call during the trial. These witnesses include three Laramie County Sheriff’s detectives, six sheriff’s deputies and a property officer, a local children’s justice advocate, four forensic analysts, two emergency medical professionals, a medical examiner, six juveniles and five other witnesses.

It also listed evidence that may be presented by state prosecutors, including body and car camera footage from sheriff’s deputies who responded to the scene, 911 calls made by two of the children who were present, photos from the scene and of the victim’s autopsy, interviews with the children and other witnesses, physical evidence from the scene, Facebook screenshots, lab results, jail calls and medical records.

At the time of the incident, Moyte was a Title 1 teacher at Afflerbach Elementary School in Cheyenne, according to previous reporting.

The incident

In the early hours of May 16, 2020, Moyte allegedly shot Christopher Garcia in the chest after an argument, according to court documents. Moyte and Garcia were engaged to be married, and lived together with several minor children from their previous marriages.

Three of these children, all 13 and younger, were in the home at the time of the shooting.

Laramie County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the home at 1:59 a.m. after the Laramie County Combined Communications Center “received multiple phone calls indicating a man had been shot there,” according to court documents. Deputies contacted Moyte outside of the home. She was crying and told deputies she shot someone, that he was still in the house and she wasn’t sure if he was OK.

After the shooting, Moyte left the scene and went to the home where her two older sons were staying, taking the gun with her, according to court documents. She told the boys what had happened and then drove back to the home she shared with Garcia. Deputies found and secured a 9mm semi-automatic handgun in a still-running truck parked in the driveway.

Garcia was unresponsive when deputies found him. He was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, where he was quickly pronounced dead, according to court documents.

While with a detective, Moyte largely refused to speak without an attorney. However, after learning Garcia had died, Moyte said things like “everyone was drinking,” and “we never fight.”

Moyte did not have any obvious injuries, and her clothes showed no signs of struggle, according to court documents. She told deputies she was not injured.

Deputies found a bullet hole in a bedroom door. They also found a 9mm round at the base of a toy box outside the bedroom, and a casing on the ground in the bedroom near an open closet door. The closet contained an open gun safe.

Deputies determined the bullet’s trajectory was at a downward angle, moving from the shooter’s right to left, according to court documents.

They did not find any other weapons in the house or signs of a disturbance.

While watching body camera footage, a detective observed that Moyte told responding deputies she and Garcia had been arguing. After briefly leaving the home and returning with a friend, she said Garcia also tried to enter the home, but she tried to keep him out by blocking the doors, according to court documents. Garcia was able to enter through an unlocked back door.

After that, Moyte said, everything “happened so fast.” She said she told Garcia to leave three times, and because she didn’t know what to do, she “shot the (expletive) gun.”

“Danelle stated multiple times in various ways that she shot Christopher,” a Laramie County Sheriff’s detective wrote in a probable cause affidavit.

At certain points, Moyte said she shot Garcia in self-defense, that he was getting violent or that she thought he would have beat her up if she didn’t shoot him. The detective noted Moyte did not describe behavior from Garcia that supported these claims, and that there was no evidence of a physical struggle.

Both Moyte and Garcia smelled strongly of alcohol after the incident occurred, according to court documents.

Investigators interviewed a friend of Moyte’s who was with her just prior to the shooting, as well as at least some of the minor children, two of whom called 911 from separate locations.

In the affidavit, the detective argued that removing a gun from a locked safe and loading a round into an empty chamber, as witnesses described, indicated “deliberate” actions. The detective said there was every indication that Garcia intended to leave with his young daughter after they gathered their belongings.

Based on the trajectory of the bullet, there may have been some risk of one of the children being hit by the bullet if it hadn’t hit Garcia or if the toy box had not been there to stop it, according to court documents.

Hannah Black is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s criminal justice reporter. She can be reached at hblack@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3128. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahcblack.

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