Casper Man, Who Murdered Mother-In-Law, Has Case Move Forward In High Court
A Casper man convicted of murdering his mother-in-law in front of his wife had his appeal move a step closer to being heard before Wyoming's high court.
A 12-person Natrona County jury convicted Anthony Rodriguez of second-degree murder last spring in the death of his mother-in-law, Mary Fogle. He'd pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness to the charges.
He was sentenced to 70-years to life behind bars.
Rodriguez filed his appeal in March, claiming prosecutorial misconduct. Specifically, the Wyoming Public Defender's Office claims Assistant Natrona County District Attorney Mike Schafer made improper statements to start the trial. Additionally, defense attorneys allege Natrona County District Attorney Dan Itzen also made inappropriate statements when he gave closing arguments.
Specifically, Rodriguez's attorneys in the appeal say Schafer gave improper opening statements when he mentioned Rodriguez claimed he was defending himself from Fogle, who Rodriguez claimed attacked him with a pizza cutter.
"And, ladies and gentlemen, a pizza cutter in the hands of a woman that's five feet, five inches tall, 160 lbs, compared to his 5'11", 190 pounds, isn't what I think you're going to have to defend yourself with," Schafer said as the trial got underway.
Defense attorneys at the time objected, moved to strike Schafer's statements and asked for a mistrial. While the objection was sustained, Natrona County District Judge Daniel Forgey did nothing else, including granting a mistrial.
As the testimony portion of the trial wound down last spring, Rodriguez took the stand in his own defense. Over the course of several hours, Rodriguez gave bizarre testimony in which he made several extreme claims including that his father-in-law was in a sex cult and Schafer was actually one of his father-in-law's multiple personalities.
"I don't know if it's the reptilians or what," Rodriguez said while on the witness stand.
Rodriguez often rambled nonsensically when his attorney, Marty Scott, asked him questions. Eventually, Forgey admonished Rodriguez for his conduct on the stand and threatened to strike his testimony.
A state psychologist testified that Rodriguez was not suffering from any sort of delusion disorder and advised that Rodriguez was exaggerating or feigning some of his symptoms.
During the course of the trial, jurors viewed two videos of Rodriguez speaking with detectives in Colorado Springs, where Rodriguez fled after the murder. Scott compared the videos with the Rodriguez they saw on the stand during the trial.
In his closing arguments, Scott said the only difference in Rodriguez in the videos they viewed versus in the courtroom was that Rodriguez was calmer in the videos with detectives than he was in the courtroom.
"But he was still tangentially speaking, going around corners. This has been consistent with Anthony Rodriguez from the beginning, "Scott said. "He suffers from delusional disorder. And as horrible and as tragic is it is that it caused the death of Mary Fogle, that's the truth. And we ask you find you return a verdict consistent with that."
Minutes later, Itzen, the district attorney, began his rebuttal (final arguments) by sharply rejecting that Rodriguez's conduct on the witness stand and with police indicated he suffered from a mental illness that led to Fogle's death.
"Ladies and gentlemen, he should get an Emmy," Itzen said. Shortly after he added, "We talked about malingering and feigning. There's quite a bit of testimony about that.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the defendant is guilty."
Attorneys with the Wyoming Attorney General's Office argue that while Itzen's statements may have been colorful, they did not constitute prosecutorial misconduct.
"On appeal, Rodriguez maintains that the prosecutor's argument was 'not a comment on the evidence or reasonable inference that could be drawn from it.' Instead, he contends that the prosecutor 'intended to inflame the jury and made a statement of his personal opinion about the evidence' and Rodriguez's veracity," the attorney general's response states. "He appears to concede, however, that the prosecutor was commenting on how Rodrigeuz acted during his testimony: 'The comment was presumably intended to target Mr. Rodriguez's testimony, which was so disjointed that both attorneys expressed their desire to just get through it.'"
It's not clear when or if the supreme court will hear oral arguments in the appeal.
Last week's filing marks the latest development in a case set in motion on November 17, 2019.
Earlier that year, Rodriguez and his wife, Alison Solis, moved in with Fogle, Solis's mother.
According to court documents, Rodriguez and Fogle spent much of the day arguing. At some point, Fogle made pizza but initially refused to give Rodriguez a piece as she was still upset with him for how he'd been acting.
Not long after eating the pizza, Rodriguez reportedly went to wash a sheet on a mattress. Fogle told him not to place it in the dryer after washing it.
Court documents state Solis, who was sitting on the couch in a separate room, heard her mother scream. Solis told investigators she found Rodriguez on top of Fogle punching her roughly 20 times. As Solis attempted to stop Rodriguez, he punched her in the face and told her to shut up or he would kill her, too.
"When Rodriguez finished beating Fogle, he rolled her onto her stomach and Solis heard him have sex with her,' the response states. "Rodriguez told (Solis), 'Now I know what it's like to f**k your mom.' Solis was not sure if Fogle was dead at this point, but assumed she was based on all the blood.
Solis then reportedly saw Rodriguez pull a red serrated kitchen knife from his pocket and proceeded to cut Fogle's neck and proclaim, "I have to make sure she's dead."
Rodriguez then fled to Colorado Springs with Solis in tow. After his arrival, a relative convinced Rodriguez to turn himself in to authorities.
Shortly later, Rodriguez walked into the El Paso, Colorado, County Sheriff's Department and told an employee, "I want to confess to a murder, no bullsh*t."
Filings state Rodriguez told an employee at the sheriff's department that he did not want to "kill or hurt anyone" and that he'd done "the craziest sh*t I've ever done in my life."