A woman who admitted to the September shooting death of 26-year-old Brandon Sanchez will not face a murder charge, because the case meets all the criteria for self-defense under Colorado's "Make My Day" law, according to a recent ruling by Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein.
Melissa Pruitt, 34, told investigators she shot and killed Sanchez after he and another man entered a Grand Junction garage where she and three other people were sleeping, and the two intruders beat up one of the people in the garage.
Pruitt said she had permission and had been staying for a few days at the home at 3116 Chipeta Ave. when she was woken up the night of Sept. 16 by two men hitting "Lil A" — a man later identified as Adam Rodriguez, 27. Pruitt told investigators Sanchez and the other man hit Rodriguez in the face, until his teeth were bashed out and "there was blood everywhere each time they hit him," an affidavit for her arrest said.
According to the record, Pruitt had seen guns in an unlocked case in the garage so she ran to it, picked out a gun and shot one of the intruders, who then ran outside after being shot.
Police were called to the home and found Sanchez lying in the backyard, dead from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the affidavit.
"I shot him, I didn't know what to do. He was beating that kid," Pruitt spontaneously told a deputy, according to the affidavit. "I was woken up by him beating that kid. I didn't know what to do. I needed to make it stop."
Pruitt said she didn't know the intruders, why they were at the home, or why they were beating up Rodriguez, but she felt she had to stop the attack, the affidavit said.
"I didn't mean to shoot him, he was just beating that kid in the face with a pipe, and the gun was there so I picked it up ...," Pruitt was overheard by a Sheriff's Office technician.
The Mesa County District Attorney's Office will not file homicide charges against Pruitt because the case meets all three requirements of the state's "Make My Day" law, Rubinstein wrote in a Dec. 4 letter to the Mesa County Sheriff's Office Complex Crimes Unit.
Colorado's "Make My Day" law allows any occupant of a dwelling to use any degree of physical force, including deadly force, against another person who has unlawfully entered the dwelling, and when the person believes the other person has committed a crime inside or intends to commit a crime inside, and if the occupant believes the person might use any physical force "no matter how slight" against the occupant.
Rubinstein said evidence shows Sanchez and the other man were not allowed to enter the area of the home without permission and Pruitt was allowed to stay at the home; the intruders entered the home with intent to evict the four people in the garage using physical force; and Pruitt had "a reasonable belief that Mr. Sanchez might use physical force, as she observed it occurring when she was awakened to the assault in progress," the letter states.
"As each of the elements of 'make my day' have been met, Colorado law is clear that Melissa Pruitt has absolute immunity from prosecution for the shooting of Brandon Sanchez," Rubinstein wrote.
Pruitt appeared Friday in Mesa County Court, and was advised on two cases, including on charges related to the September shooting.
She faces possible drug possession and weapons charges in that case. She also was advised on a possible pawnbroker violation for allegedly selling a stolen laptop in October.
Judge Craig Henderson issued $5,000 cash-only bonds in both of the cases Friday.
Brandon Sanchez' sister, Monica Sanchez, said by phone Friday that she feels justice will not be served if Pruitt is not held accountable for her brother's killing.
"I know my brother wasn't one to go out and cause trouble like they're making him out to be," she said. "Everybody was mind-boggled that they're ruling it as self-defense."
Sanchez, 21, said she feels the case is being dismissed because of her brother's criminal history. She said evidence shows Pruitt left the garage to get a gun to shoot her brother, which doesn't seem like self-defense. Also, she said a number of witnesses at the home that night lied to police.
"I don't understand why they're making such a big decision based on unreliable sources," she said. "I want to get a fair shot at getting justice for my brother. I know he would do the exact same thing for me. He would make sure the person was in jail for the rest of their life."