High court upholds murder conviction

CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed a Casper man’s murder conviction on Wednesday, but the court ruled that his sentence was illegal and will need to be corrected. 

Andrew Steplock had appealed to the high court on claims that he was unprepared for trial since he wasn’t given funding to complete a second mental evaluation in order to plead not guilty by reason of mental illness. The court ruled Wednesday that Steplock did not show that the second evaluation would have changed the trial’s outcome. 

The sentence in his case, life in prison with several shorter sentences running at the same time, will be sent back to district court. 

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, adding a 10- to 15-year sentence for aggravated burglary on top of the life sentence for murder was “improper.” 

Steplock, who was convicted of breaking into his parents’ house in Casper and murdering his mother in 2019, also said in his appeal that his defense attorney was ineffective by not securing the second evaluation. He asked for a new trial in Natrona County District Court in December 2020, but a judge denied the motion the following month. 

At trial, Steplock admitted to breaking into the home and killing his mother, Deborah. He said he was hallucinating and a demon had convinced him to do it. 

However, the court states, Steplock had told police following the incident that he broke in to steal money from the cellar, and did not mention any hallucinations or a demon at that time. 

According to court filings, Steplock first mentioned the demon during his mental evaluation at the Wyoming State Hospital. 

The Wyoming Supreme Court said that these “inconsistent versions” of the events “weakened his NGMI (mental illness) defense,” and reiterated that the second evaluation would not have likely changed the ruling in his case. 

A jury found Steplock guilty of felony murder, second-degree murder, aggravated burglary and possession of a deadly weapon. He is now serving his sentence at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington.