Teen charged with first-degree murder in father’s shooting

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County Circuit Court Judge Shelley Cundiff found there was sufficient probable cause to bind Christian Torres, 15, over to district court on the amended charge of murder in the first degree during a preliminary hearing Monday. 

Torres is now officially charged with “unlawfully purposely and with premeditated malice” murdering his adopted father, Edgar “Eddie” Jones July 27, 2021, rather than the original charge of second degree — or not premeditated — murder. The new charge is a felony punishable by life imprisonment when the defendant is younger than 18 years old at the time of the offense, a $10,000 fine or both.

After allegedly shooting his father with a semi-automatic pistol, Torres attempted to flee to Billings in the family’s truck, court documents state. Law enforcement located the defendant after he was involved in a single-car roll-over crash in Hardin, Montana, in the early hours of the morning July 28, at which time Torres admitted to a Montana State Trooper he had killed his father.

During the hearing Monday, Deputy Sheridan County and Prosecuting Attorney Christopher LaRosa had to demonstrate probable cause that Torres acted with premeditated intent.

To that end, LaRosa presented testimony from Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office Deputy K. Boot Hill, who described his investigation of the Torres case and the evidence indicating Torres allegedly acted with premeditated malice. 

In particular, Hill testified Torres wrote four lists in a notebook prior to his father’s death, each of which included check-list style instructions for a kind of plan. 

Two of the notes mentioned gathering supplies and driving to Billings in a “mongoose,” which Hill said he interpreted as the truck Torres intended to drive to Montana, a reference to a vehicle in the video game “Halo.” 

Another pair of notes included commands to “execute Order 66,” which Hill testified was an allusion to Star Wars, an order instructing the execution of the Jedi order. Hill said he understood Torres’ written intentions to “execute Order 66” as the defendant’s plan to kill Jones.

These lists were allegedly consistent with previous behavior from the defendant, Hill said. In his capacity as school resource officer at Tongue River High School, Hill said he spoke with Torres’ adopted mother in March 2021, four months prior Jones’ death. The mother stated she was concerned about Torres’ behavior and afraid of the then-14-year-old. 

One reason for this was a “kill list” Torres’ mother had found among his possessions, which included several names of “people to eliminate,” Hill said. 

During Hill’s cross examination, defense attorney Anna Malmberg poked holes in Hill’s theory of the case. The lists could have been made in reference to a video game, Malmberg argued, or have some other innocent explanation. Similarly, Hill had not had the evidence analyzed by a handwriting expert to confirm Torres wrote the notes. 

Malmberg also pointed out Torres had indicated to Hill that he initially intended to hurt himself — not someone else — during Hill’s interrogation of the defendant. How could Torres kill his father in a premeditated manner if he’d initially planned to hurt himself? 

Despite these arguments from the defense, Cundiff determined adequate probable cause existed to send the case back to district court with the amended charge of first degree murder. 

Because 4th Judicial District Court Judge Darci Phillips has recused herself from Torres’ case, the case will return to district court for a transfer hearing before Laramie’s 2nd Judicial District Court Judge Tori Kricken in June or July and a trial before Jackson’s 9th Judicial District Court Judge Melissa Owens preliminary scheduled for August.