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Judge trims sentence for Rails to Trails killer; might be freed sooner

May 24, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A judge lowered the minimum sentence a convicted killer is to serve in jail in a May 22 order, making the teen eligible for parole sooner but not guaranteeing it.

Santana Mendoza, 17, finished a rehabilitation program and asked to be let out on probation rather than finish his sentence in state prison.

"The court finds that the defendant's request to be placed on probation should be denied for the reason that to do so would unduly depreciate the extreme seriousness of the defendant's crimes," District Court Judge Norman E. Young wrote.

"The court has reservations concerning the safety of the public under such a scenario."

One dead, one injured

Mendoza and his co-defendant John Potter killed a man, David Ronald Moss Jr., 25, and beat a woman, Aleeah Crispin, unconscious on the Riverton Rails to Trails path in April 2014.

Both men were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 to 18 years in prison.

Mendoza finished the nine-month Wyoming Boot Camp rehabilitation program in April, and at a hearing earlier this month asked Young to change his sentence to one of probation, saying he was a changed man.

Minimum term

Instead, the judge in the order lowered Mendoza's sentence on the manslaughter charge to 10-18 years in prison.

A defendant must serve at least the minimum time in his sentence before he can be paroled, Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun said in an interview.

With Mendoza's minimum sentence lower, he could serve less time in prison, but his release would be up to the Wyoming Board of Parole.

A defendant is guaranteed to be released after serving the maximum time of his sentence, which stayed at 18 years for Mendoza.

Earned time off

The Wyoming Department of Corrections also gives prisoners credit of extra days that count toward their sentences for good behavior and completing programs, LeBrun said. The so-called "good time" means convicts can be released earlier than their lower sentences but does not guarantee it.

Mendoza also was convicted of aggravated assault, and Potter of aiding and abetting the same, for the attack on Crispin. They are both serving eight to 10 years in prison for that crime simultaneous to their other sentences for manslaughter.

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