Man charged in Cheyenne woman’s murder ruled unfit for trial

CODY — Another delay has occurred in the prosecution of a former Cody man accused of first degree murder as he was recently determined still mentally unfit to stand trial.

Joseph Underwood, 47, will continue to be held at the Wyoming State Hospital for an indefinite period of time before he can, if ever, stand trial.

Underwood is accused of murdering a local woman in Cheyenne and driving the body to Cody where he dumped her south of town in November 2019.

He is also facing charges for first-degree sexual assault, stalking and two counts of applying pressure on the throat or neck.

In mid-September, Laramie County District Court Judge Peter Froelicher determined Underwood still unfit to proceed. It was the same determination the judge made about him in December 2020.

Since February, Underwood has been housed at the State Hospital in Evanston.

Prior to Froelicher’s first ruling, Underwood experienced a head injury while in custody. He also suffered a serious head injury from a motorcycle accident in the early 1990’s and in 2014 attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head.

In May WSH’s Dr. Alex Yufik gave his opinion that Underwood had been restored to competence. About a month later he and another doctor from the hospital gave the court their perspective on the matter and two different competency evaluations were submitted to the court over the summer. The court also received testimony from Brandon Booth on Aug. 27, Underwood’s public defender attorney and chief trial counsel for the State Public Defender’s office.

“Having weighed all of the evidence this court finds the State of Wyoming has not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Underwood is competent to proceed,” Froelicher said in his decision letter.

However, Froelicher did find there being a “substantial probability” Underwood could be restored “within the foreseeable future.”

Froelicher “strongly” suggested Wyoming State Hospital staff conduct a neuropsychological exam and that he participate in speech and occupational therapy instruction.

Underwood will continue to remain at the State Hospital and its staff will issue a report on his status every three months.