25-year-old Zachary Mueller of Bridgeport, who was convicted of first degree murder in the “body in a barrel” case in Morrill County, was given the mandatory maximum penalty of life in prison when he was sentenced Monday by District Judge Leo Dobrovolny.
In addition to the life sentence, Mueller was also sentenced to serve 20 to 40 years on a charge of possession of a firearm by a felon and another 20 to 40 years use of a firearm to commit a felony. The sentences are all to be served consecutively with no possibility of parole.
Mueller was convicted in the drug-related death of Pedro Dominguez of Greeley, Colorado, whose body was found December 4th, 2015 stuffed in a barrel east of Bayard.
Mueller’s attorney Sarah Newell asked for leniency on the two weapons charges, noting Mueller has struggled with substance abuse since he was nine and began using meth when he was eleven. Newell said Mueller was aware of the problem, which she indicated would keep him from seeing his daughter in the future.
Some supporters of Mueller sobbed prior to the sentencing, but none of them commented after the sentence and relatives of Dominguez also declined comment. Mueller was given credit for 371 days served in jail.
The state’s material witness Felicia Talley, Dominguez’ girlfriend, testified Mueller shot the victim while the three were riding in a car south of Bridgeport November 22nd. Talley testified the shooting occurred after the three principals smoked meth earlier in the day.