Jun 8, 2017

Man who opened fire in Walmart parking lot dies in prison

A man who was serving a lengthy prison sentence for opening fire in the Cody Walmart parking lot back in 2007 has died behind bars.

Chester Darral Fletcher, 72, died on June 2 at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington “from a lengthy illness,” according to a news release from the Department of Corrections.

Fletcher had been incarcerated since Cody police arrested him on July 9, 2007 — hours after he tried shooting a former roommate outside Walmart.

Fletcher narrowly missed the man with one bullet — apparently grazing a lunch bag the man was carrying on his bicycle — while another of the five shots ripped into an empty mini-van parked in the lot.

Chester Fletcher
Concerns about Fletcher’s competency were raised throughout his case, but District Court Judge Steven Cranfill ultimately found Fletcher was fit to stand trial. He pleaded guilty to attempted voluntary manslaughter and judge Cranfill, going along with the recommendation of the Park County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, sentenced him to 18 to 20 years in prison.

At sentencing, Cranfill said Fletcher’s “only remorse was that [his roommate] was not killed or seriously injured” and noted he’d put other members of the community in danger.

Fletcher had served a little less than 10 years at the time of his death. He was not expected to become eligible for parole until November 2021, according to Department of Corrections records.

Fletcher’s attorneys had described him as being in failing health — suffering from diabetes, seizures and mental health problems — essentially since he was imprisoned.

His motive for the shooting was a decade-long grudge over a $7,000 civil judgment his former roommate had won against him for back rent and unauthorized credit card usage, court records say. That 1998 judgment led to Fletcher’s motorcycle being seized and auctioned off, which Fletcher saw as theft.

“i am being halt lock down for some thing any one else would when theyer property is being stolden,” Fletcher wrote in an error-riddled letter to the Tribune in March 2009, while awaiting trial.

At his sentencing hearing that summer, Fletcher told the court that, “When somebody steals from you, you don’t let 'em do it,” though he indicated that had only meant to fire one warning shot into the air.

After his arrest, and for years after his conviction, Fletcher’s attorneys argued that he was unable to grasp that what he had done was wrong.

A psychologist from the Wyoming State Hospital evaluated Fletcher several times while the case was pending and found that, while he had a low IQ and suffered from a paranoid personality disorder, he was competent to stand trial. A psychiatrist hired by the defense disagreed, but Cranfill sided with the state. The Wyoming Supreme Court later upheld the judge’s ruling.

After the appeal was denied, defense attorneys asked Cranfill to reduce Fletcher’s sentence in late 2011.

“Without a sentence reduction, Mr. Fletcher is effectively condemned to die in prison without ever fully understanding why he is there,” wrote attorney Diane Courselle and student intern Samm Lind of the University of Wyoming’s Defender Aid Program.

Prosecutors objected, with then-Deputy County Attorney Sam Krone writing that Fletcher was “a man hell-bent on vengeance; vengeance which will eventually compel the defendant to track down [his roommate] and finish the job.” Krone also noted how the incident had jeopardized others.

Cranfill declined to reduce the sentence.
~ By CJ Baker


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