Bidding to save herself from a life prison sentence, the wife of confessed cop killer Luis Bracamontes testified Monday that she was in fear for days that he would kill her, both before and after he began the 2014 crime spree that resulted in the killings of two Sacramento-area deputies.
Testifying in front of her husband – who was allowed back into the courtroom by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White to watch – Janelle Monroy described a fight in their Utah home over an alleged affair that left her bruised on her face and arms and included him threatening to kill her.
“The first time with a gun, put it to my head,” she said under questioning from defense attorney Pete Kmeto. “The second time with a box cutter.
“He told me he was going to cut my face off so no one would ever look at me again.”
Bracamontes also tried to smother her with a pillow during the fight, she said, adding that she begged him to let her live by calling out her nickname for him.
“Please, Tiger, no,” she said. “Please, Tiger, no.”
The night after that argument, the couple left their Salt Lake City-area home on a trip that ended in Sacramento and included numerous incidents that Monroy said left her “terrified.”
Monroy said Bracamontes was erratic and threatening, once blasting out the passenger side window of their Mercury Marquis with a pistol as she sat there.
At one point, after they stopped for beer, cigarettes and snacks, Monroy said he “put the gun to my head, told me he was going to kill me, he shot out the car door window,” she said.
“He kept telling me, ‘You know, you like to have fun, you want to have fun?’ And he would turn up the music and start shooting at my side, and the (casings) were hot and hitting me,” she said. “It was my side, not his.”
Monroy testified for more than two hours Monday morning in what is essentially Kmeto’s moon shot, an effort to convince the jury that Monroy was locked in an abusive relationship with a volatile husband who was always armed.
Bracamontes could face the death penalty if convicted in the slayings of Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis Jr.
He already has confessed to the killings repeatedly and, until Monday, had been watching his trial on video in a holding cell because of his repeated outbursts and threats against deputies, jurors and spectators.
White decided last week he would allow Bracamontes back in for his wife’s testimony. Throughout the morning court session, Bracamontes sat quietly as Kmeto got Monroy to describe her fear of her husband and to concede that she also loved him during their 12-year marriage.
“Because we were together for such a long time, I really did love him,” Monroy said as she began to cry on the witness stand.
Prosecutors don’t see the case as the story of a terrified woman in the thrall of her husband. They contend Monroy was a willing accomplice who helped move Bracamontes’ AR-15 rifle from vehicle to vehicle as he carjacked his way from Sacramento, where Oliver was killed, to Auburn, where Davis died in a gunfight.
Monroy is charged in Davis’ slaying and with aiding and abetting her husband. Sacramento prosecutor Rod Norgaard began his cross-examination just before the lunch break by essentially calling her a liar.
“You lied to the police, didn’t you?” Norgaard asked, noting that after her arrest she identified her husband by one of his aliases and never mentioned anything about a box cutter.
He also noted that both she and her husband cheated on each other, including a relationship she had with a tattoo artist known as “Goofy.”
“This marriage was very dysfunctional,” Norgaard said. “You would have affairs, and he would have affairs.”
Norgaard and Placer prosecutor Dave Tellman contend Monroy had ample opportunity to escape Bracamontes before the shootings, and have introduced video footage from a gas station and motels showing her appearing to be caressing him and smiling.
Kmeto elicited testimony from Monroy that those videos were simply evidence that she was trying to keep herself and innocent bystanders alive.
“I was trying to be, I guess, lovable, keep everything calm so he wouldn’t flip out and start hurting anybody,” she said.
She testified that after Bracamontes shot Oliver and later wounded motorist Anthony Holmes in a failed carjacking, Bracamontes ordered her to take the AR-15 from their car and place it into a Mustang he had carjacked.
“I tried to shove it under the car because I didn’t want him to have it,” she said. “I didn’t want him to hurt any more people.”
Norgaard spent the afternoon pointing out details that seemed to conflict with Monroy’s story of being afraid for her life, including the fact that she handed Bracamontes a hat at one point as they fled to help disguise him.
He also noted that Monroy drove the carjacked Mustang briefly and did not flee, even though her husband was across the street helping unhook a lawn trailer from a truck he was carjacking.
“You can just drive off,” Norgaard said. “The truck is connected to a trailer.”
Monroy countered that she was still afraid her husband would shoot at her, but Norgaard was skeptical and reminded her of the first question she asked detectives after they were both arrested: “Is there any was I’m going to be able to see my husband?”
After Monroy’s testimony, Bracamontes’ defense attorneys rested their case without presenting any witnesses. The judge asked Bracamontes if he was willingly agreeing to not testify in his own defense, and he answered yes.
The case is now expected to go to closing arguments for both juries. The Monroy jury will hear arguments Wednesday, while the Bracamontes jury is expected to hear them Thursday.