State v. Wright, 052820 AZAPP1, 1 CA-CR 19-0251

Docket Nº:1 CA-CR 19-0251
Opinion Judge:GASS, JUDGE.
Party Name:STATE OF ARIZONA, Appellee, v. MONTEZ LAVELL WRIGHT, III, Appellant.
Attorney:Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Terry M. Crist, III Counsel for Appellee Bain & Lauritano, PLC, Glendale By Amy E. Bain Counsel for Appellant
Judge Panel:Judge David B. Gass delivered the decision of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop and Judge Maria Elena Cruz joined.
Case Date:May 28, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Arizona
 
FREE EXCERPT

STATE OF ARIZONA, Appellee,

v.

MONTEZ LAVELL WRIGHT, III, Appellant.

No. 1 CA-CR 19-0251

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

May 28, 2020

Not for Publication - Rule 111(c), Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CR2017-005699-001 The Honorable Danielle J. Viola, Judge

Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Terry M. Crist, III Counsel for Appellee

Bain & Lauritano, PLC, Glendale By Amy E. Bain Counsel for Appellant

Judge David B. Gass delivered the decision of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop and Judge Maria Elena Cruz joined.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

GASS, JUDGE.

¶1 Montez Lavell Wright, III, appeals his convictions and sentences for 11 counts, including two counts of first-degree murder. For the following reasons, this court affirms.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 This court reviews the facts in the light most favorable to sustaining the jury's verdicts, resolving all reasonable inferences against Wright. See State v. Felix, 237 Ariz. 280, 283, ¶ 2 (App. 2015). This court does not weigh the evidence or assess witness credibility, because those are jury functions. See State v. Williams, 209 Ariz. 228, 231, ¶ 6 (App. 2004); State v. Salman, 182 Ariz. 359, 361 (App. 1994).

¶3 In early 2016, Wright met Andrew Lauro while they were working for a landscaping company. Because of money problems, Wright and Lauro developed a plan to burglarize a house in the retirement community where their employer had them doing landscaping work.

¶4 On Sunday, the day before the burglary, Wright and his then-wife, Tichinia Shephard, met with Lauro and finalized a plan to commit a burglary the next day. The plan was to drive around on Monday morning until they selected a house with an open garage door. According to their plan, Wright and Lauro would enter the house, and Wright would hold the victims at gunpoint while Lauro tied them up. Shephard was to drive the getaway car.

¶5 Later on Sunday, Shephard created a "Stripe" account. A Stripe account can be used for companies to move money around to different bank accounts. Shephard's Stripe account, purportedly for a wig business, was registered using Shephard's phone, and was linked to her email address. The Stripe account was subsequently linked to two bank accounts, one belonging to Shephard and one belonging to Wright.

¶6 On Monday morning, when Wright and Lauro were scheduled to work, Wright, Lauro, and Shephard drove around the retirement community to search for houses to rob. They identified a house with an open garage door. A homeowner, A.D., saw the three park near his house, watched Wright and Lauro put on their work vests, and approach his open garage door. A.D. closed his garage door and called the police.

¶7 The three left and within minutes, came across another open garage door at B.L.'s home a few blocks away. Wright and Lauro went into the house through the garage. Shephard stayed in the car.

¶8 When Wright and Lauro entered the house, B.L.'s friend, R.S., was reading a newspaper. Wright told her "it's a stick up." Wright then shot her. Hearing the disturbance, B.L. came out of a bedroom, and Wright also shot her. Wright then shot R.S. a second time as she was about to use her cell phone. Both victims died.

¶9 Wright and Lauro stole the victims' purses and fled in B.L.'s SUV. They met Shephard at a nearby church. Wright realized he had dropped his cell phone at B.L.'s home, and he returned to retrieve it but was unable to do so. Wright abandoned B.L.'s SUV in Avondale. Later, Wright and Shephard made several transactions using the victims' credit cards with the Stripe account they had created the day before.

¶10 The next day, police went to B.L.'s home for a welfare check and discovered the victims. Police found Wright's cell phone and recovered his DNA from it. Police soon located B.L.'s stolen SUV and found Wright's DNA on the steering wheel. B.L.'s iPad was inside her vehicle, and Wright's DNA was on it as well. Using cell phone records for Wright and Shephard, police established they were in the immediate area of B.L.'s home before and after the murders.

¶11 The State charged Wright with two counts of first-degree murder, 1 one count of first-degree burglary, one count of theft of means of transportation, one count of attempted first-degree burglary, one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices, one count of attempted fraudulent schemes and artifices, one count...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP