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A Wyoming man is accused of viciously stabbing his friend to death at least 25 times before abandoning the body in a creek, in a case prosecutors have called “disturbing” and “gruesome.”
Justin Armando Marquez, 40, is now facing charges of murder in the second-degree in the death of 36-year-old Ryan Schroeder, according to Oil City News.
Marquez appeared in court Tuesday, at which time prosecutors laid out the allegations against him, calling the killing “brutal,” “disturbing” and “gruesome.”
Schroeder had been missing for two months before his badly decomposing body was discovered in rural Natrona County on Aug. 30 and positively identified earlier this month, according to a statement from the Casper Police Department.
The 36-year-old was first reported missing on July 6 by his mother, who told detectives she hadn't spoken to her son since June 24, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by radio station KTWO.
She had also been unable to find anyone who had seen or spoken to him—including his two young children—since June 26 and had become increasingly concerned about his safety.
Just before he disappeared, Schroeder had taken a trip to Denver. Although Marquez—who also was in Colorado—claimed he had never seen his friend during the trip, other witnesses told police that the two had “partied” together on June 25 and June 26, according to the affidavit.
One witness said the pair had not been getting along at the time and were arguing like “an old married couple.”
After reviewing the missing man’s phone records, investigators also learned that his last phone call had been to Marquez. Throughout the month of June, the pair had exchanged a total of 67 phone calls, according to the affidavit.
Investigators believe Schroeder and Marquez had left Colorado to return to Casper together.
During their investigation, detectives noticed that a maroon 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe registered to Marquez was not at his property and were able to track the vehicle to a Casper storage facility.
The vehicle allegedly had large quantities of blood throughout the interior, including on the passenger seat, driver’s seat, center console, driver’s side window and front windshield.
“The distinct smell of decomposition was noted inside the vehicle,” the affidavit alleged.
There were also signs that someone had attempted to clean up. Investigators found a bottle of window cleaner inside the vehicle, according to the affidavit.
Authorities were able to link the blood to Schroeder after analysis revealed a high likelihood that the blood samples had come from the 36-year-old.
As part of the investigation, detectives had also placed another of Marquez’s vehicles under electronic surveillance and tracked him making a “significant” stop around Coal Mountain Road near Wyoming Highway 487.
Using this information, they launched a large-scale search of the area on Aug. 30 and found Schroeder’s badly decomposing body later that afternoon in a creek near an abandoned homestead camp, according to the affidavit.
Schroeder had suffered at least 25 stab wounds to his upper chest and back, including some wounds that penetrated his rib and sternum bones.
Marquez is currently being held at the Natrona County Detention Center on $500,000 cash only bond, according to the local paper.
In his obituary, Schroeder’s family said he had been “tragically taken from this Earth far too early in life.”
They described the Wyoming father and grandfather to one as an inquisitive person who loved to read, write and learn.
“In the last few years, his thirst for knowledge grew stronger to the point that he spent much of his time searching for a deeper understanding of the universe and studying the word of God,” they wrote.
The family said Schroeder, a talented drywaller, had also been an avid sports fan, who regularly played in summer softball leagues and rooted for the Denver Broncos.
“Ryan had such a special heart and soul,” they wrote. “He will be greatly missed by many.”
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