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Life in prison for Cody murder

A 30-year-old Cody man stands to spend the rest of his life in prison after admitting to murdering his wife, 44-year-old Julie J. Friday, in February 2012.

On Tuesday, Myron James Friday pleaded guilty to first-degree murder as part of a plea agreement with the Park County Attorney’s Office.

District Court Judge Robert Skar accepted the deal after a hearing that included tearful statements by two of Julie Friday’s children.

“For the victims, I can’t bring your mother back. I can’t bring your daughter back,” Skar said. “Mr. Friday, nor can you. But what we can do is make sure that until such time as the state of Wyoming deems you to be rehabilitated, that you’re not going to be around to do this to anybody else.”

“With a life sentence, residents of this state, I think, are assured that Myron Friday’s not going to be a future danger,” said Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric after the hearing. “We feel confident in that.”

In addition to court costs and fees, Friday was ordered to pay $3,745.05 in restitution to pay for Julie Friday’s funeral and counseling for her family members.

Skoric agreed not to pursue the death penalty or a life sentence without the possibility of parole in exchange for Friday pleading guilty. Instead, Friday received a life sentence pursuant to law.

Friday said his understanding of the deal meant “I can possibly get parole sooner or later down the road.”

“That may be down the road a ways,” Skar cautioned. “It may not happen early on in your sentence.”

Actually, the only way Friday can be eligible for parole is if a future governor commutes his sentence from life to a shorter term.

Skoric said such commutations are “extremely rare.”

“It is my opinion that Myron Friday will in fact serve just that: a life sentence,” he said.

The crime

Friday didn’t show any obvious emotion during the hearing.

“I would just like to say to the families, to the loved ones, I am so sorry for taking the life of your loved one,” he said, referring to his wife of six years. “You don’t have to forgive me. I just want you to know that I’m sorry for my actions, what I’ve done. I’m the person that’s going to have to live with it.

“That’s all I have,” he said.

He did not offer any narrative of what happened on Feb. 26, 2012, acknowledging only that it was the day he murdered his wife.

“Are you responsible for Julie Friday’s death?” public defender Nick Beduhn asked his client.

“Yes,” said Friday.

Deputy Park County Attorney Tim Blatt recounted the specifics with a narrative compiled by law enforcement interviews and evidence.

He said Myron Friday had been dropped off at the couple’s 33rd Street trailer while only Julie was home. Her 17-year-old son found her battered body in her bedroom a couple hours later.

Blatt said an autopsy found Julie Friday had suffered repeated stabbings that appeared to come from a Phillips screwdriver found near her body. Several of the wounds to her head, neck and chest were severe enough to be fatal.

Blatt said Julie Friday had defensive wounds, indicating she’d fought back. Some of Myron Friday’s skin was found under her fingernails. His phone was found near her body. Friday took her cell phone with him, snapping it in half and discarding it in a field, where Cody police recovered it.

He went to an acquaintance’s house on Big Horn Avenue, dripping what was determined to be Juile Friday’s blood on their floor and, later, in the interior of their car, Blatt said.

When Friday was arrested at another acquaintance’s home the following day, police found traces of Julie Friday’s blood on Myron’s clothes.

Friday did not dispute Blatt’s account. Beduhn said there was a “potential” that drugs or alcohol had been involved in the killing.

Julie Friday remembered

One of Julie Friday’s children began loudly sobbing while Blatt outlined the crime. Two of her daughters spoke to Skar about the loss of their mother.

Shandal Veach shared part of what she read at Julie Friday’s funeral. She described her mother as someone who could light up a room and who had passed her best attributes on to her children.

Veach said she had so much anger and hate for Myron Friday and called him a “monster.”

“This man not only took a woman, mother and child, but a past and future that my family and I will never get to know. And that’s why I believe there’s no sentence or punishment I could recommend that would begin to cover what I’ve lost,” she said.

Brandi Veach, the oldest daughter, described her mother as happy-go-lucky. Brandi Veach said her mother was always there for the family and was her confidante and best friend.

“I cannot help but feel that my mom was given a death sentence, and we were given a life sentence. If it was in my power, your honor, I would sentence Myron to remain in prison for the rest of his life. I would also sentence him to the unending sorrow, grief, heartache and sadness we wake up to each day,” she said.

Tensions high

It was a crowded, tense scene in Park County District Court, with many Cody police officers and Park County Sheriff’s deputies on hand to keep the peace.

They ended up being needed.

After Judge Skar exited the courtroom, Myron Friday’s family called out “We love you, Myron.” Myron then loudly called out to his family in Arapaho. According to Beduhn, the phrase roughly translates to “Thank you, I will see you later.” The phrase was not, as the Cody Enterprise initially reported, “Wahoo!”

“It wasn’t celebratory, but the way Northern Arapaho is spoken,” Beduhn said. “(Friday) knew he might not be seeing some of his family that were in the courtroom again, and he wanted them to know he was sticking to his Native American roots.”

Perhaps misinterpreting what Friday said, a member of Julie Friday’s extended family immediately yelled back, “F— you.”

That sparked a heated and profanity-laced exchange between the two families.

Cody police and sheriff’s deputies worked to calm the courtroom, but it continued to be raucous outside the courthouse. A couple members of Myron Friday’s family made crude gestures at and confronted a KULR-8 TV reporter filming them.

Beduhn told the Tribune the tragedy of Julie Friday’s death was being lost in the coverage of yelling after court.

“The focus really should be about the family’s loss of Julie. Sadly, Myron’s family also has a severe loss. We only hope that the change of plea and sentencing (Tuesday) will start to mend the spirits of both families,” he said.

One of the reasons Friday accepted the plea agreement and responsibility was “so that neither family would have to endure a five-week trial,” Beduhn said.

The deal

Skoric described the plea deal, which required Friday to admit his guilt, as providing accountability a jury trial could not have.

“The fact that he stood up and took responsibility for her (Julie Friday’s) death meant a great deal, I think, to her family,” Skoric said.

He noted both her family and the Cody Police Department supported the deal.

The state’s arguments of first-degree — or premeditated — murder were pinned on the fact Friday repeatedly stabbed his wife and a statement from Shandal Veach that Myron threatened to kill Julie Friday after learning she’d seen another man while he was jailed.

Beduhn had argued during a preliminary hearing that the crime scene indicated the killing had been done in a rage. That would be second-degree murder, for which life pursuant to law is the maximum sentence.

Skoric said the argument Myron “snapped” instead of planning to kill Julie Friday was “certainly something the jury would have had to consider.”

So, “When we could guarantee the first-degree murder conviction, that was also important to the state,” he said.

Skoric intended to ask a jury to impose the death penalty if they convicted him of first-degree murder.

Friday’s defense team, which included head Wyoming Public Defender Diane Lozano, had argued against the death penalty, particularly for Friday.

“Given the reluctance of Wyoming juries to impose the death penalty in cases against a prison inmate who commits murder while incarcerated, against a man who participated in the six-month torture death of a 22-month-old child, against a man who kills his stepson in order to avoid being convicted of sexual assault, and against a man who kidnapped and killed his wife almost immediately upon release, the death penalty is not a proportionate sentence in Wyoming in any case, much less one of the alleged nature of this capital case,” the defense wrote in one filing.

Skoric put the death penalty on the table because of the way she was killed and an argument that Myron Friday posed a future danger. That was based in part on his criminal history.

Past domestic abuse

Court records show Myron Friday kicked a former girlfriend in the face and knocked out a tooth in a 2006 altercation in Riverton.

In May 2011, he was arrested by Cody police after he yelled at Julie Friday and became aggressive with staff at West Park Hospital. That July, Friday was arrested for reportedly breaking down the door of Julie Friday’s 33rd Street home when she wouldn’t let him in. When she called 911, Friday allegedly broke his wife’s phone in half — much like he did after the murder.

In both 2011 instances, Friday reportedly was drunk.

Myron Friday returned to Fremont County in the latter part of 2011. It was legal trouble that brought him back to Cody in January 2012, with police arresting him in Riverton on Park County warrants for not following court orders.

“I just want to get my life back on track. Stay out of trouble,” Friday said at a January hearing.

After a 41-day jail stint, Friday was released on Feb. 18, 2012.

Instead of staying out of trouble, he committed murder — his first felony offense.

The cost

A trial was projected to cost Park County hundreds of thousands of dollars. The jury was likely to be sequestered. With such a high-profile, death penalty case, 1,000 juror names were drawn for potential jury duty.

Skoric said the trial costs were not a determining factor in making a deal, but he said it’s something that “as an elected official, you have to be cognizant of.”

Skoric said the state spent tens of thousands of dollars on state crime lab testing and DNA work, plus hours and hours of police and prosecutor time.

Even if a jury had determined the death penalty was warranted, “they go on and on and on through the appeal process,” Skoric said.

Wyoming’s lone death row inmate, 68-year-old Dale Wayne Eaton, was put there in 2004 and remains in the midst of a federal appeal.

“You’re talking millions of dollars,” Skoric said of death penalty appeals.

The Wyoming Public Defenders’ office wracked up $250,000 in time and costs defending Friday over the past year.

At least two other death penalty cases are currently pending in Wyoming. Skoric himself will likely have another death penalty decision to make regarding two young Cody men charged with this month’s murders of three Clark residents.

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