A Laramie man was convicted after a two-day trial last week of strangling his girlfriend during a fight on the Snowy Range Road Bridge.
Twenty-two-year-old Mario Morones was arrested Oct. 26 after an investigation that stemmed from Laramie Police Department officer Troy Bartel seeing a truck on the bridge “driving very slowly and going to both sides of the road.”
The driver informed Bartel that a woman, who was in the passenger’s seat, had flagged her down and gotten into her truck amid an attack from her boyfriend.
At the time, the driver and the victim were looking for the victim’s phone and purse, which had been thrown over the bridge by her boyfriend.
Separately, and around the same time, LPD officer Peter Belgarde had stopped Morones for suspicion of a DUI.
When Belgarde questioned Morones, he made a few incriminating statements when explaining he had gotten into an argument with his girlfriend.
Morones told Belgarde he may have choked his girlfriend when “he went to grab her when she shrugged her arms up so his right hand ended up going over her lower throat or chest area and his left hand was on her right shoulder,” according to Bartel’s affidavit of probable cause.
“Morones stated he may have put pressure on her neck but it was because he was trying to pull her closer,” the affidavit states.
Morones’s blood-alcohol concentration was recorded at 0.15% shortly after.
Leading up to last week’s trial, Morones’s attorney had sought to have those initial statements ruled inadmissible as court evidence.
Defense attorney Joe Bustos argued that before making some of those statements, Morones had not been read his Miranda rights as should have been required in a formal interrogation.
“All of his statements, both at the scene of the DUI and at the jail, were made during the course of an interrogation. He did not have the chance to confer with counsel nor anyone else before interrogation.” Bustos argued.
Because Morones was also drunk, Bustos also argued that none of his statements should’ve been admissible even if he was read his Miranda rights.
“He was in no condition to understand his Miranda rights … nor to waive them,” Bustos argued.
Ultimately, Albany County District Court Judge Tori Kricken decided the evidence was admissible because Morones’s questioning took place in a “non-coercive environment” in which Miranda rights are not required to be read.
“The defendant was not in police custody when questioned at the scene of the potential DUI, prior to his formal arrest and prior to the time those officers were aware of any potential domestic violence allegations involving Mr. Morones,” Kricken ruled.
When Bartel talked to the victim on the day of the incident, she said that she and Morones had been at Laramie Lanes when he “became aggressive” and she decided to leave the bowling alley.
“The victim started to run away from Morones when he grabbed her and then choked her with both hands in front of her with his thumbs across her throat and fingers to the back of her neck,” the affidavit states.
When Morones let go of her, she ran south down 3rd Street and ran across the Snowy Range Road Bridge.
Morones reportedly got in his truck, drove over the bridge, parked, and grabbed her purse and threw it over the bridge.
The affidavit states that Morones began choking his girlfriend on the bridge again before she fought him off and entered the passenger’s seat of a passing truck.
When the victim was inspected, she had numerous red marks on her neck and she was bleeding from a cut on her head.