CHEYENNE – The case of a man accused of murdering a local woman and dumping her body near Cody has been bound over to Laramie County District Court.
Joseph Underwood, 45, had his preliminary hearing Friday afternoon in Laramie County Circuit Court, with Judge Denise Nau presiding.
Underwood was originally charged with first-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault, stalking and two counts of applying pressure on the throat or neck. At the hearing, Nau dismissed Underwood’s sexual assault charge for lack of probable cause. Underwood also had his Park County charges dropped due to the Laramie County charges.
Underwood is accused of murdering Angela Elizondo, 40, of Cheyenne.
At his preliminary hearing, Jason Moon of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation said Underwood told law enforcement that he had vaginal intercourse with Elizondo’s body after he allegedly strangled her with his hands and a hoodie drawstring in the bathroom of his home.
Because Elizondo was dead at the time of the alleged sexual assault, Nau said, “I don’t think you can sexually assault someone who is deceased.”
She also said a person who is deceased isn’t a person. Also, the autopsy and sexual assault nurse examination kit results weren’t available at the time of the preliminary hearing. Nau said once these results come back, the state can refile charges, if necessary.
On Nov. 2, law enforcement found Elizondo’s body in a creek bed just south of Cody. Her body was covered with a blue sheet and tied to a red handcart, Moon said.
Around 11:30 that night, Underwood returned to the scene and had a short standoff with law enforcement before he was arrested. Law enforcement arrested Underwood because he initially failed to yield to law enforcement vehicles at the scene and had a 9mm pistol visible in his truck that he wasn’t allowed to have, Moon said.
Once Underwood was arrested, he was interviewed by law enforcement officers three separate times. During those interviews, he said he was dating Elizondo, Moon said.
On the night of Elizondo’s murder on Nov. 1, Underwood told officers Elizondo had contacted him while he was out at a bar, Moon said. He then went to pick her up, and the two went back to Underwood’s downstairs apartment in Cheyenne.
Once at the apartment, the two talked and argued about their relationship, and Elizondo gave Underwood a ring back that he had given to her. After this happened, Underwood said he “blacked out,” and when he came to, he was straddling Elizondo’s dead body across her chest and shoulder area, Moon said.
Underwood told officers he didn’t know how she died, but he probably strangled her. After Underwood regained consciousness, he said he took off Elizondo’s pants and had sex with her body, Moon said.
On Nov. 5, Elizondo’s body was autopsied, and it was determined her cause of death was strangulation and blunt force trauma. Moon said the coroner told him that Elizondo was likely unconscious when she was strangled because she didn’t have any visible sign of struggle from the strangulation. The blunt force trauma was to Elizondo’s face.
Elizondo and Underwood also had several encounters with the Cheyenne Police Department before Elizondo’s death, according to hearing testimony.
In October, Underwood had contacted CPD and told officers, “If she (Elizondo) doesn’t leave (him) alone, she’s going to wind up dead.”
Between last September until Elizondo’s murder, both Underwood and Elizondo had contacted CPD complaining about each other. Elizondo told police that if she ever wound up missing, they needed to contact Underwood. She also told them that if she went missing to look in the hills around Cody, according to hearing testimony.
Underwood’s defense attorney, Brandon Booth, asked Moon if he was aware that Underwood had a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident in 1992 and then a gunshot wound to the head.
Moon told Booth he was aware of Underwood’s traumatic brain injury from reading Underwood’s medical records and from his supervisor. Booth also said traumatic brain injuries don’t go away, and it’s something people have to deal with for the remainder of their life.
In 1992, Underwood was involved in a motorcycle crash in Cody as a teenager that left him with a brain injury. In 2014, during a standoff between himself, his ex-wife’s cousin and police, Underwood shot himself in the head.
Underwood had also recently gotten out of prison after he was sentenced to four to six years incarceration, with 14 months credit for time served. Underwood was sentenced in 2015 for aggravated assault and battery against his ex-wife and choking his then 15-year-old son, which left scratch marks on the boy’s neck, according to the Cody Enterprise.
He was also charged with threatening to use a deadly weapon, violating a protection order and knowingly pointing a firearm at his ex-wife, according to the Cody newspaper.
During the 2014 incident that led to Underwood’s charges, his ex-wife’s cousin told Underwood “he needed to get back into counseling and start taking his medication again,” according to the Cody story.
Reporting from the Cody Enterprise contributed to this story.