After murder case dismissed, man held on related Park County warrant

Jail mugshot of Joseph Carl Underwood.

CHEYENNE — Following the recent dismissal of a murder case against him, a Cheyenne man is being held in jail on a Park County warrant that includes a charge of disposal of a human body related to the same alleged incident. 

At one time late last month, the current suspect in the improper body disposal, Joseph Carl Underwood, could have been released from Laramie County custody. 

This was averted by emergency detention that was ordered by mental health staff at the Laramie County jail. 

Underwood, 47, had been charged in November 2019 in Laramie County for allegedly killing a Cheyenne woman, Angela Elizondo. Authorities believe Elizondo was killed in Cheyenne. Underwood then allegedly took her body to Cody, which is the seat of Park County, and dumped her body in a creek bed south of town. 

Underwood admitted to investigators during a November 2019 interview that he had transported Elizondo’s body and taken it to a location between Meeteetse and Cody, a probable cause affidavit said. 

On Nov. 5, 2019, Underwood was charged in Park County Circuit Court with disposal of a human body and possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a violent felony, both felonies. He was also charged with misdemeanor interference with a peace officer and fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement. 

Ten days later, he was charged in Laramie County Circuit Court with first-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault, two counts of felony strangulation and misdemeanor stalking. The sex assault charge was later dismissed. 

The Park County charges were then ordered dismissed on Nov. 18, 2019, according to court records. 

On June 23, a Laramie County District Court judge signed an order finding that there was “not a substantial probability that Mr. Underwood will become fit to proceed within the foreseeable future.” The order, signed by Judge Peter Froelicher, released Underwood from Laramie County’s custody, as required by state statute. 

The judge signed an order the same day dismissing the case without prejudice, meaning the same charges could be refiled in the future. 

The order said the court had received a report on April 19 from the Wyoming State Hospital that said Underwood was not mentally competent to go to trial on the murder charges. The state hospital is a psychiatric facility overseen by the Wyoming Department of Health. It is located in Evanston, in southwest Wyoming. 

Froelicher also found Underwood not fit to proceed in December 2020 and September 2021, which had delayed trial proceedings.

The Park County charges were refiled July 5 in circuit court there. A Laramie County Sheriff’s Office booking sheet from that date shows Underwood as being held on the Park County warrant. His arrest location is listed as the Laramie County jail. 

Lt. Jennifer Stephens, who works in support services at the Laramie County jail, said by phone on Tuesday that Underwood was returned to the jail on May 6. Stephens said this followed his most recent evaluation at the state hospital. 

When the jail received the June 23 release order from the Laramie County court, a mental health professional at the jail placed Underwood on emergency detention, said Capt. Kevin James, undersheriff of the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office. 

“Our mental health staff found him to be a danger to himself and others, and we were not going to release him out in the public at that time,” James told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, Underwood was still in custody at the Laramie County jail. 

Stephens said Underwood would at some point be transported to the Park County jail by authorities from that county. 

Underwood is now being detained on a criminal hold following the July 5 warrant on the Park County charges. Park County prosecuting attorney Bryan Skoric did not comment.