Justin Armando Marquez, a Casper-based man, faces second-degree murder charges in the homicide of an acquaintance named Ryan Schroeder, 36. Marquez, 40, was charged by Natrona County Circuit Court Judge H. Steven Brownand on Tuesday, with a bond amount of set at $500,000 cash.

Jail records reflect that Marquez was arrested and booked into the Natrona County Detention Center Friday.

An Assistant Natrona County District Attorney reportedly branded the murder as “brutal and gruesome” and pleaded with the court for $1 million cash bail. However, defense attorney Joshua Taylor noted that his client was a property owner in the country, with no previous violent crime record.

Schroeder’s death came to light after he was reported missing from the scene for about two months, Oil City News reported. The court hearing was carried out via video conferencing in the wake of the pandemic, as opposed to suspects being produced before the court.

Schroeder’s corpse was discovered in the Coal Mountain Road area on Aug. 30, after being reported as missing to the Police Department on July 6, which kick-started a multi-agency investigation. The heart-wrenching plight of the corpse gave investigators the impression that the body endured multiple stabbings— as much as 25 times—in and around the rib and sternum bones, included.

A source, on the condition of anonymity, revealed in the affidavit that Schroeder was last seen on June 26 with Marquez, when the two exited from a Denver hotel with an intent to travel to Casper.

Court documents revealed that Schroeder had traveled to Denver in late June, and was allegedly stranded in the city without funds or the access to travel back to Casper. However, friends were soon reassured that he found the means to get back home and didn’t need any monetary assistance anymore.

A deeper probe shed light on how Schroeder and Marquez seemed to be in constant touch with each other, with a call history suggesting how the two made roughly about 67 calls to each other. At the beginning of the investigations, Marquez allegedly presented a narrative that cited how he had communicated with Schroeder while in Denver, but the two did not meet.

But, things got ugly after the car Marquez drove was found in August at a Paradise Valley storage facility, covered by a tarp, KPVI reported. The vehicle was found in a rather unusual condition—tainted by bloodstains in front of the vehicle, driver’s window, around both seats, front windshield, and center console. However, Marquez allegedly refused to take accountability for the condition of the car and averred that the vehicle wasn’t functioning to its fullest capacity, and hence he was driving another car.

A deeper investigation gave investigators an understanding of Marquez’s plan of action—the suspect frequented a spot on El Rio Road in Bessemer Bend on Aug. 28. A subsequent search on Aug. 30 helped detectives trace Schroeder’s body at a creek near a homestead property on the northeast side of Coal Mountain Road. The body was identified as Schroeder’s after a few accessories corresponded with the descriptions of the items owned by him. A cell phone battery, charging cord, trash bags, and a wooden dowel was also retrieved at the site.

An autopsy reflected that stab wounds were concentrated around Schroeder's upper chest and back.

A preliminary hearing and arraignment in district court on the single felony charge is likely to be scheduled soon.

A representational image.
A representational image. PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay