Cheyenne resident charged with murder

By Katie Kull

Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Via Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE — Local prosecutors filed first-degree and attempted murder charges Wednesday in connection with a May shooting that resulted in the death of one man and injury of a woman. 

Frank McHenry, 25, could potentially face life in prison or the death penalty after Joseph Tortolito was killed south of town in a neighborhood near Palomino Industries. 

McHenry was first charged in May with two counts of aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon, four counts of felony interference with a peace officer and a misdemeanor count of property destruction. 

The amended charges come after the Wyoming State Crime lab analyzed several items at the scene, finding presence of Mc-Henry’s DNA on Tortolito’s jeans and on an AR-15 suspected to be the murder weapon. 

McHenry has also recently returned from the Wyo-ming State Hospital, where an evaluator determined he was mentally competent to stand trial and assist in his own defense. 

In a hearing Thursday, neither McHenry’s attorney nor a Laramie County prosecutor disputed those findings. 

The judge also set a preliminary hearing Aug. 24 in which a judge will determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to move the case forward for trial. 

McHenry is currently being held without a bond.

Charging documents in the case outline the evidence that led law enforcement to believe that McHenry committed the crimes of which he is accused. 

That evidence has not, however, been contested in a court of law. 

According to charging documents: 

Laramie County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched May 11 to a report of shots fired in the 5000 block of South Greeley Highway. Minutes later, another man called to report that his sister had been shot in the hip and her truck had also been hit by gunfire. 

Dispatch told deputies that witnesses had last seen a man in a black sweatshirt running toward a red brick house in the 600 block of Pontillo Drive. 

Deputies searched the home and didn’t find anyone inside.

In a search of a junkyard around back, deputies then found Tortolito’s body hidden under several wood pallets. 

Shortly afterward, law enforcement officers saw a man running in and out of the red brick house brandishing a gun. 

The man with a gun rummaged through two vehicles parked in the driveway, got into a Suburban and started it using keys he stole from the home. 

When he got down the driveway, he was stopped by officers with the Laramie County combined SWAT team and arrested. 

The woman who was shot, Kristen Smith, later told deputies she was at a property east of Pontillo Drive that morning when she realized someone was shooting at her. A bullet struck her hip, and she got into her truck and drove behind a hill to get out of the line of fire. 

She then saw a man in a black or grey hooded shirt running toward a row of trees north of Pontillo Drive. 

Later, deputies found a Smith and Wesson M&P15 rifle under a tree wrapped in a black jacket with McHenry’s family photos hidden under a pile of pine needles. 

Tests of that gun revealed the presence of McHenry’s DNA on the trigger, butt stock, magazine and forward grip. 

While searching the Pontillo home the day of the shootings, deputies found a wallet with McHenry’s ID in the basement of the home on Pontillo Drive, as well as a backpack with a camouflage coat with three AR-15-type magazines and a notebook with the name “Frank McHenry” written on it. 

Deputies also interviewed McHenry’s uncle, who told them that he had dropped McHenry off at his fifth-wheel trailer earlier in the morning before heading to work. 

When the uncle got a call about shots fired, he went home and found that he was missing his Smith and Wesson M&P15 rifle, which had been in a case with magazines. The front door to the home had also been kicked open. 

Deputies also brought McHenry in for questioning. McHenry was naked, but he had a blanket wrapped around his waist.

McHenry told the detective that he needed to adjust the blanket. The detective left, and McHenry slipped his legs through the handcuffs so they were around the front of his body.

When the detective came back into the room, McHenry charged at him.

Later, when the detective left again, Frank McHenry got up on a chair and hit the ceiling.

He pulled an air duct inside the interview room, causing it to break and the ceiling panel to come crashing down.

The detective told McHenry to stop, and McHenry took the piece of the heating/air conditioning duct and charged toward the detective, hitting his arms. The two then began to fight.

Another deputy entered the room and used her Taser on McHenry.

Two other deputies came into the room and attempted to restrain McHenry.

During the struggle, he tried to bite two of the law enforcement officers, kicked the two others and eventually reached for one of the deputies’ duty belt and genitals.