St. Paul double homicide: Man pleads guilty to 2022 group home murders

St. Paul police investigate a double homicide in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood in October of 2022 (FOX 9).

A man pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of second-degree murder for killing two other men at a sober living house in October 2022.

Joseph Francis Sandoval II, 34, entered a Norgaard plea for the killing of Jason Timothy Murphy and Jon Ross Wentz. Ramsey County court officials explained that a Norgaard plea "allows the defendant to accept the consequences of their actions even though they are unable to provide a factual basis due to drug use or mental health impairment at the time" according to a news release sent after Sandoval pleaded guilty. 

The criminal complaint states that St. Paul police responded to a home near East Lawson and Duluth Street to a report of a man screaming that another man had killed someone inside their home. 

Officers say they then stopped Sandoval when they saw him leaving the house and walking toward an alley. He was found to have blood on his clothes along with cuts on his face and hands.

The complaint states he appeared to be under the influence and told officers he had ingested fentanyl. 

Police then searched the home and found blood in the kitchen and on the stairs leading to the basement, where they found 40-year-old Murphy in a pool of blood. 

Wentz, 56, was found in a pool of blood inside an upstairs bedroom.

Both men appeared to have been stabbed in the head and neck multiple times, according to the complaint. The owner of the sober house later explained that Murphy was a handyman doing work on the home and that Wentz was a resident. 

During the investigation, a witness told police he tried to enter the home and Sandoval tried to block him, saying it was "too messy." The witness then went into the basement after entering a side door and found Murphy's body. He told police he tried to escape but claimed Sandoval prevented him from leaving because he told him he would need his help "disposing of some things," according to court documents. 

The witness said Sandoval put him in a choke hold and had a "crazed look in his eyes" but he was able to break away from Sandoval and ran to get help.

Police also reported finding a bloody knife and a hammer at the scene. Nobody else was in the house. 

Arresting officers then questioned Sandoval, who told them he had just moved into the sober house and didn't know anybody there. Sandoval then explained that "two big guys" caused his injuries but could not describe them, saying he just saw long hair. The complaint states that Sandoval said he was "hearing noises" and "the TV said they were trying to kill me." He continued by saying he was told "to take the opportunity." Sandoval then added "I just wanted a quiet room." 

The criminal complaint states that while at the hospital, he asked to be shackled to the bed, and when asked why, he responded by saying, "Because I don't know what I'll do."

Court records show that Sandoval had multiple felony assault and burglary charges in neighboring Hennepin County. However, he was conditionally released and found to be incompetent in June 2021. He was then civilly committed. 

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi released the following written statement regarding the case: 

"This tragic case is a heart-breaking reminder of the limits our mental health system faces when addressing the needs of those with profound mental illness in the justice system who are found incompetent to stand trial but do not receive adequate treatment or supervision. Continuing to improve the connection between these two systems demands further legislative effort and funding. Our hearts go out to the Wentz and Murphy families who have suffered so profoundly due to these shortcomings."

Sandoval's sentencing is set for the morning of July 19.