Janelle Monroy held her head in one hand and cried quietly Wednesday as a prosecutor began tearing apart her defense in closing arguments designed to send her to prison for life.
Monroy, accused of helping her husband, Luis Bracamontes, in an October 2014 rampage that killed two Sacramento-area deputies, occasionally shook her head as prosecutor Rod Norgaard accused her of making up testimony to make herself look like a victim of her husband’s rage and violence.
“You probably only needed about nine seconds to size up Mr. Bracamontes, see who he is,” Norgaard told the jurors, adding that Monroy stayed at his side for years, right up to the end of the Oct. 21, 2014, shootings.
“She’s not a hostage … she’s not some browbeaten person locked in a room.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
Norgaard, speaking in a calm, measured voice, reminded the jurors of surveillance videos that were played in court showing her caressing her husband and checking them into motels on their trip from Utah to Sacramento.
“She’s the CEO here,” Norgaard said. “It’s pretty easy to see if you watch them together.”
Norgaard noted that Monroy has conceded she had numerous affairs during her 12-year marriage, and offered that as proof that she did not live in fear of him.
“She couldn’t have been afraid if she had affairs,” Norgaard said. “She would survive to do it again and again, these affairs.”
Monroy’s defense attorney, Pete Kmeto, followed Norgaard’s arguments Wednesday morning by telling jurors that she lived in terror of her husband and went along during the rampage that killed Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis Jr. out of fear for her life.
The jury got the case late Wednesday afternoon after receiving instructions from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White. A second jury hearing Bracamontes’ case is expected to begin deliberations after closing arguments Thursday.
Monroy faces charges of murder, attempted murder, carjacking, attempted carjacking and possession of an assault rifle and could be sentenced to 25 years to life. The murder charge stems from the death of Davis, who prosecutors say died from an AR-15 rifle round fired by Bracamontes.
Prosecutors contend that Monroy is guilty because she moved the AR-15 from vehicle to vehicle as Bracamontes carjacked his way from Sacramento to Auburn.
“She is a helper,” Norgaard argued. “She is moving that gun from car to car. That’s what partners do.”
But Kmeto argued that those crimes were committed by her husband, that she moved the rifle only out of fear of him killing her. He added that, under the law, the jury cannot convict her of any of the charges if they believe she was under duress during the crime spree.
“You have no evidence that this woman right here, with malice in her heart, intended to kill anyone,” Kmeto said. “When Detective Davis was killed, she wasn’t even there.
“She never told Bracamontes, ‘Go kill Detective Davis...’ If she’s under duress, you cannot find her guilty of any of these crimes that she’s charged with.”
Kmeto argued that any rational person would be under duress after witnessing Bracamontes shoot Oliver in the head, then minutes later shoot a motorist, Anthony Holmes, five times after Holmes refused to give up his car.
He noted that, after Oliver was killed, Monroy dived into the back of the Mercury Marquis that Bracamontes was driving and came under fire from 12 or 13 rounds that Oliver’s partner fired into the vehicle.
“If Janelle Monroy just lifted her head six inches she’d be dead,” Kmeto said.
“Janelle Monroy is in a car with an unstable man who is armed and just shot Deputy Oliver...” Kmeto said, adding that “anyone in this situation would have been terrified of this man.”
“At that moment, he’s not the love of her life, at that moment he’s an unpredictable killer,” Kmeto argued.
Norgaard and Placer County prosecutor Dave Tellman have painted a different portrait of Monroy, saying she willingly went along and helped carry an AR-15 rifle from car to car as they drove on the crime spree from Sacramento to Auburn.
The testimony she gave Monday, during which she described her husband threatening to cut off her face with a box cutter and holding a gun to her head, was made up, Norgaard said, noting that she never mentioned such threats to detectives after her arrest.
“Those events never happened,” Norgaard said. “She had to change her story, and that’s why it looks so artificial and awkward and rehearsed. Because they never happened.”
Monroy appeared to begin crying as Norgaard played a surveillance video from the lobby of the Arden Way Motel 6 where they both stayed the night before Oliver was shot to death in the parking lot.
The video shows the two walking out of the lobby arm in arm.
“And there they go,” Norgaard told the jurors, noting that she is clearly not a hostage.
Bracamontes, who was not present Wednesday, has repeatedly confessed to killing both officers and said he wanted to kill more.
Closing arguments in his case, in which he could face the death penalty, are scheduled for Thursday morning.