Wyoming man pleads not guilty to killing girlfriend

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A Wyoming man who has suffered two traumatic brain injuries has denied charges that he killed his girlfriend during an argument in which she returned a ring he gave her.

Joseph Underwood, 40, pleaded not guilty Thursday to first-degree murder in the death of Angela Elizondo, 40, of Cheyenne, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported. He also pleaded not guilty to stalking and two counts of applying pressure on the throat or neck.

Elizondo's body was found on Nov. 2 in a creek bed south of Cody, charging documents state. She died of strangulation and blunt force trauma, an autopsy found.

Underwood returned to the site later that night and was arrested. He later told investigators he thought he strangled Elizondo, court records said.

Underwood's attorney, Brandon Booth, said Thursday he wanted to have Underwood evaluated for competency to stand trial due to brain injuries suffered in a 1992 motorcycle crash and when he shot himself in the head during a standoff with law enforcement officers in 2014.

Booth said Underwood also reserved the right to plead not guilty by reason of mental illness.

When Judge Peter Froelicher asked Underwood if he was understanding the proceedings and what they mean, Underwood replied that he wasn’t really able to.