A 20-year-old woman is expected to be told she can never touch a firearm again Wednesday in her sentencing for fatally shooting the father of her two children during a YouTube stunt gone awry.
Monalisa Perez pleaded guilty in Norman County District Court in December to killing 22-year-old Pedro Ruiz III on June 26 in a stunt intended to win him internet fame. Two cameras captured the shooting at the couple’s house in Halstad in northwestern Minnesota.
The plea agreement calls for her to spend 180 days in jail and stays a four-year sentence. Also, Perez cannot “make any financial compensation” from the recording of Ruiz’s death and is “banned from possessing firearms for the rest of her life,” according to the plea deal.
Perez, who retains custody of their two small children, will serve her six-month term 30 days per year for the next three years and then become eligible to serve the rest on electronic home monitoring, as long as she abides by the terms of her 10-year supervised probation.
Norman County Attorney James Brue said Monday, “I expect her to be sentenced with what is outlined” in the plea agreement. He said Ruiz’s relatives “indicated they were in support of it.”
Members of Ruiz’s family are expected to give statements to the court during sentencing before District Judge Jeffrey Remick, the prosecutor said.
For the stunt, Ruiz held a hardcover encyclopedia against his chest and Perez, standing barely a foot away, fired a shot from a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, to see if the bullet would go through the book. The Desert Eagle is described by retailer Cabela’s in an online ad as “one of the world’s most powerful semiautomatic handguns.”
The bullet pierced the book, and Ruiz fell mortally wounded. Perez called 911.
“We were doing a YouTube video, and it went wrong,” a transcript of the call quoted Perez. She spelled out her concern on Twitter a few hours before the shooting. “Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE,” she wrote.
Perez has a YouTube channel with videos the couple made of various stunts and pranks. The channel remains live and has drawn millions of views since Ruiz’s death.
Various news media outlets asked to have cameras in the courtroom in Ada for sentencing, but Remick declined. The prosecution and defense also filed objections to having cameras present. The state is in the midst of a pilot project that allows media cameras at sentencing with a judge’s consent.
Remick explained in a rare weekend court filing that he was saying no to the Star Tribune and the Fargo Forum newspapers, and television stations WDAZ in Grand Forks and KSTP in the Twin Cities because the case involves domestic violence, and out of his concern that the cameras would inhibit Ruiz’s loved ones from making victim impact statements and keep Perez from “fully engaging” in whatever she might say.
The judge added that he also was guided by “common decency and old-fashioned common sense” in not letting the media take advantage of “that infamy” that befell Ruiz and Perez because of “an ill-conceived video stunt.”
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482