Sacramento and Placer County prosecutors said Tuesday that they will seek the death penalty against Luis Enriquez Monroy Bracamontes, the Mexican national suspected of killing two law enforcement officers during a daylong rampage on Oct. 24 that spread from Sacramento to Auburn.
The announcement came in Sacramento Superior Court, where Bracamontes, 34, and his wife, Janelle Marquez Monroy, 38, made brief appearances before Judge Helena Gweon and had their next hearing set for Feb. 4.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Monroy, who is charged with murder in the death of Placer County Detective Michael Davis but not in the slaying of Sacramento County Deputy Daniel Oliver.
Bracamontes is charged with killing both deputies, as well as the attempted murders of motorist Anthony Holmes during a botched carjacking attempt and of three other Placer County deputies.
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Another attempted murder count was added in an amended criminal complaint filed Tuesday that charges Bracamontes with trying to kill Oliver’s partner, Sacramento County Deputy Scott Brown, during a confrontation at the Arden area Motel 6 where the shooting spree began.
The criminal complaint lists five special circumstances against Bracamontes, which allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
The couple are being prosecuted jointly by the Sacramento and Placer district attorneys’ offices, and prosecutors said they had decided to seek the death penalty for Bracamontes after reviewing the evidence separately.
“Input from the victims’ families was solicited, received and considered during the decision-making process,” Placer County Assistant District Attorney Dave Tellman said in court. “Both offices independently concluded that the death penalty is the appropriate penalty in this instance.”
Bracamontes listened to the proceedings through a Spanish interpreter while standing inside a courtroom cell. He did not react visibly, and Sacramento County Public Defender Jeff Barbour said after court that it was too early to comment on the prosecutors’ decision.
“We’re still in the process of getting volumes of information,” Barbour said. “We haven’t had a chance to review it thoroughly. That’s why we continued this to February.”
Bracamontes’ wife was brought into the courtroom cell after he was taken out. She did not speak, but at the conclusion of the proceedings turned to the courtroom and smiled and waved at her parents. They declined to speak to reporters afterward.
Death penalty prosecutions are uncommon in both counties. Sacramento prosecutors have sought and won death penalty convictions five times since 2003. In addition to Bracamontes, one other death penalty case is pending. Placer County officials did not respond to a request for comment on such prosecutions, but the state prison system’s death row database lists only two inmates from Placer County, both from cases in 1989.
Prosecutors did not discuss their decision to refrain from filing special circumstances against Monroy that could have led to the death penalty, but her attorney, Pete Kmeto, said after the hearing that juries “historically” have tended not to sustain death verdicts against defendants when “there’s that separation between who is an actor and somebody who is along for the ride.”
Accomplice liability, Kmeto said, “requires affirmative conduct in terms of encouraging or aiding the conduct.”
“There’s nothing I know about the case at this juncture that would suggest that is the case,” the lawyer said.
Kmeto declined to discuss Monroy’s account of what happened the day of the shootings.
In an interview with The Sacramento Bee in October, Monroy’s father, Mauro Marquez, portrayed his daughter as the victim in an abusive relationship, saying his son-in-law had forced his daughter to quit her job with a loan company and restricted her communication with her parents. He said her husband used drugs and had threatened to kill her, as well as him and his wife.
He said his daughter told him, after her arrest, that the two of them had been arguing behind the Motel 6 “because of the madness he had and drugs” when they were approached by Deputy Oliver.
In looking at Marquez’s public statements, Kmeto said, “Obviously, from a defense standpoint, what her father had to say to the media is very interesting and is something we’re going to be looking into. If she’s an unwitting or unwilling participant, that changes the notion of her criminal liability.”
The shooting spree has gained national attention because of its ruthless nature and as part of the broader ongoing debate on U.S. immigration policies. Bracamontes, who lived in the Salt Lake City area, was arrested at least four times in Arizona between 1996 and 2001 on drug and weapons charges. He was deported to Mexico twice, but managed to return to the United States illegally.
Law enforcement authorities say the confrontation began the morning of Oct. 24, when Deputies Oliver and Brown approached Bracamontes and his wife as they sat in a car in a parking lot of the Motel 6 on Arden Way. Oliver went to speak with Bracamontes, who was using the alias “Marquez,” while Brown approached Monroy, according to police accounts.
“During the encounter, Marquez pulled a 9 mm handgun and shot Deputy Oliver one time in the head killing Deputy Oliver,” an arrest report filed in the case states. “Marquez next shot several times at Deputy Brown, but Deputy Brown was not struck.”
Authorities allege that the couple sped away in their car, stopping near Howe Avenue and Spanos Drive, where Bracamontes tried to carjack a vehicle driven by Anthony Holmes and shot him several times before fleeing. Holmes survived the attack.
According to court documents, Bracamontes then confronted motorist Chantal Robinson and took her car at gunpoint, while Monroy moved a rifle from their vehicle into that car. Next, they confronted a landscaper, Jose Salas, and took his pickup. “Monroy was seen removing a long object wrapped in a blanket from the car taken from Robinson and moving the item to Salas’ truck,” according to the arrest report.
The couple fled to Placer County, authorities said, where deputies confronted them near Auburn. Detective Davis was killed in the ensuing gunbattle. Another officer, Deputy Jeff Davis, was wounded.
Monroy surrendered to authorities near that scene; Bracamontes was arrested around sundown after hiding out in a nearby home.
In total, the 14-page criminal complaint charges Bracamontes with two counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder, four counts of carjacking, two counts of theft, one count of being a felon in possession of weapons and one count of illegal possession of an assault weapon.
Monroy faces one count of murder, four counts of attempted murder, four counts of carjacking and one count of illegal possession of an assault weapon.
Both are being held without bail: Bracamontes at the El Dorado County jail, and his wife at the Yolo County jail.
Call The Bee’s Sam Stanton, (916) 321-1091.