District Court: Jury seated in murder trial

WINNEMUCCA — The trial for a man accused of shooting and killing his daughter last June is underway in the 6th Judicial District Court.

Leo Hunter, 54, (shown right) pleaded not guilty to open murder in November 2010.  He is represented by Public Defender Matt Stermitz.

Chief Deputy DA Kevin Pasquale represents the state; the case is being presided over by Judge Michael Montero.

The defense stipulated to the fact Hunter shot his daughter, Lenora Warren, who was 29-years-old at the time of her death.  She died several hours after the shooting while en route to Reno where she was being transferred for medical care.

The defendant is charged with open murder, which allows the jury to hear all the evidence then decide if the crime represents first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or manslaughter.

The defense is expected to argue the facts of the case do not represent first-degree murder.

During opening statements Stermitz told the jury Hunter intended to scare his daughter, not shoot her, when he went for the gun.

Warren was preparing to leave her parents’ house, along with her two young daughters, following a dispute over spilled soda.  During the dispute her father called her stupid in front of her daughters.  She told her mother she couldn’t take the verbal abuse anymore.

Hunter was apparently concerned about the safety of his granddaughters because he and his wife had come to believe Lenora Hunter was using drugs.

Pasquale will be seeking a first-degree murder conviction.

As he noted in his opening statements, Hunter did not act like a man who had just unintentionally shot his daughter.

He noted after the shooting Hunter did not call 911 or help his dying daughter.  He just watched as his wife, a nurse, attempted to give first aid.

The state’s primary witness is Stella Hunter, the victim’s mother and the defendant’s wife.

She has previously testified that Hunter hated his daughter and when he went for the gun he said, “I’ll do the time.”

Stella Hunter began her testimony on Monday (April 11).

WPD investigates death of man found unconscious Friday night

During the night of January 6, 2012 officers from the Winnemucca Police Department responded to the  report of an unconscious male  in the 200 block of Bridge Street. Winnemucca Police Department Officers arrived on scene along with Humboldt General Hospital Ambulance personnel.

Officers were told by people on scene that the male had been involved in a fight and had been punched. When Officers inquired further no witnesses were able to provide information or state what had happened.

The male adult, identified as Nathan Muniz, age 25,  was transported by ambulance to Humboldt General Hospital and later flown to Renown Medical Center in Reno.  At the time of the initial investigation, Officers were not made aware of the extent of Muniz’s injuries.  Once it became apparent that Mr. Muniz’s injuries were life threatening in nature, Detective Will Bourland initiated an investigation into the previous nights events.

The investigation by Winnemucca Police Department is ongoing. Once the investigation is concluded the case will be forwarded to the Humboldt County District Attorneys Office for review and any applicable charges to be filed. Anybody with information can call Secret Witness at (775) 623-6969.

Man who sicced his dog on SO deputies changes plea

WINNEMUCCA — The man who sicced a dog on Humboldt Count Sheriff’s Office deputies who were trying to arrest him has taken the deal offered by the state.

Gary Robinson, 71,  was in 6th Judicial District Court on Tuesday (Oct. 25) for a change of plea hearing.  He pleaded guilty to battery with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm – all category B felonies.

The incident goes back to June 17 when deputies were called to the Robinson house on the report of a domestic battery in progress.

When deputies attempted to arrest Robinson, he called out to his grandson’s dog to “get ‘em boy”.

The dog, described as a pit bull, charged deputies and actually attacked Sgt. Lee Dove, whose leg was injured in the attack.  Deputy Lincoln Fay shot the dog.

A sentencing hearing was set for 2:30 p.m. December 12.

Robinson remains in custody at the Humboldt County Detention Center on $165,500 bail.

Andrews sentenced for aiding/abetting in 2006 murder

LOVELOCK — Charged with aiding and abetting another man in a 2006 murder, Nick Andrews, of Winnemucca, was sentenced on Thursday (Oct. 20) for voluntary manslaughter with use of a deadly weapon.

Judge Michael Montero, of the 6th Judicial District Court, sentenced the defendant to two consecutive terms of 2-5 years in prison with 311 days credit for time served.

Andrews previously pleaded guilty, via an Alford plea, to the charges.  An Alford plea allows the defendant to maintain his or her innocence while acknowledging if the case proceeded to trial they might be convicted of a greater offense.

Andrews was originally charged with felony (first-degree) murder and felony burglary in connection to the murder.

A Pershing County jury convicted Andrews in 2007 of felony burglary but failed to reach a consensus on the murder charge.

The voluntary manslaughter charge was the result of a plea agreement between the defense and the Pershing County DA’s Office.

CASE HISTORY:  The victim, George Moritz, was camping with friends at Sonoma Canyon in Pershing County the night of his murder.  Matt Hutchinson and Nick Andrews drove to the campsite and stood outside the tent challenging Moritz to fight.

When Moritz didn’t come out, Hutchinson and Andrews went in.  According to the testimony of eyewitnesses, Hutchinson first beat Moritz then shot him in the head at close range with a revolver.

The gun used in the murder belonged to Nick Andrews, who loaned the gun to Hutchinson and showed him how to use it, according to testimony.  It should be noted Andrews denied knowing Hutchinson would use it to shoot Moritz.  Andrews thought they were just going to have a physical altercation.

After the murder, Hutchinson and Andrews went to the home of Andrews’ mother and stepfather.  The two men buried their bloody clothes, shoes, and the gun in the backyard.

Both were arrested the next morning after being identified by eyewitnesses.

The motive for the murder was jealousy.  Hutchinson apparently believed Moritz wanted to rekindle the relationship he previously had with a girl, who was at that time dating Hutchinson.

If true, Hutchinson was misinformed.  Moritz had a new girlfriend and the two were expecting a baby.

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT:  Addressing the court and seeking justice for her son was the victim’s mother, Susan Ramirez.

She told the court, “George was a good boy.  He didn’t deserve what he got.  There’s nobody that deserves what he got that night – or any night.”

She described her son as a young man who was kind and thoughtful of the feelings of others.  He was someone who befriended the kids who were bullied or friendless.

He was the first person in his family to graduate from high school, and he persevered even when the schoolwork became challenging. After graduating he took a job at an area mine.

Ramirez said with his first paycheck George treated his friends to a nice dinner.

She noted Andrews looked as though he had matured over the last five years.  She acknowledged she received a letter of remorse from Andrews.

She commented on her Christian beliefs and said, “I believe very deep.  It’s a big issue with me.  If you’re not able to forgive, how can you expect the Lord to forgive you?  I’ve got it bad.  I think I should forgive you for everything, but I can’t. I try and try and try.  All I want is my son.”
Ramirez lamented that George’s son would never know his father.  She reminded Andrews that he would get to see his children grow up, that his mother would get to be with him eventually, but she would never see her son again.

WITNESS TESTIMONY:  The defense, represented by Public Defender Steve Cochran and Reno attorney Marc Picker, called Jeff Smith to the stand.

Smith was on the same incarceration block as Hutchinson in 2006.  He quoted Hutchinson as saying he wanted to go back after the murder and kill the eyewitnesses, but Andrews talked him out of it.

Called to the stand to testify on behalf of the prosecution was Detective Rick Brown of the Department of Public Safety – Investigation Division. Brown was the lead detective on the case.

Under questioning, Brown revisited the issue of the encounter between Winnemucca Police Department officers, Hutchinson and Andrews just hours before the murder.

The WPD was investigating a drive-by shooting and stopped a vehicle that matched the description of the one used in the drive-by, right down to the burned-out taillight. The car was being driven by Hutchinson and his close friend Andrews was in the passenger seat.

Andrews admitted to officers he had a gun.

An officer on scene sniffed the gun and determined it had probably not been fired recently.  The officer was identified as a firearms expert and the range master at the time.

Hutchinson and Andrews were released – with the firearm.  They drove from that scene to Sonoma Canyon to find George Moritz.

From the stand Brown was incredulous that someone would sniff the gun to determine if it had been fired recently.  A range master himself, Brown noted the sniff test was not standard among range masters to determine if a gun had been fired recently.

He was asked if there was anyway the officer could be correct, but Brown replied, “I don’t think so.”

Andrews later pled no contest for the drive-by.  That shooting was also the result of a dispute over a girl.

Also testifying were two of the juvenile eyewitnesses in the tent that night: Sean Callahan and Lacy Callahan.

Both witnesses put Andrews in the tent with Matt Hutchinson during the beating and shooting.

Both quoted Andrews’ response to the murder of George Moritz, “Dude, you just shot him.”

THE SENTENCING:  The negotiated settlement between the defense and prosecution recommended a 4-10 year sentence in prison for the voluntary manslaughter.

However, the amount of time he would serve for the deadly weapon enhancement and the time served would be up to Judge Montero.

Cochran asked that his client be given the full 2000+ days he had served since his 2006 arrest.

Pershing County Deputy DA Bryce Shields countered the defendant only had 311 days credit for time served.  While it was true he had been in custody since 2006, much of the credit for time served went to the other three felonies he was convicted of in that same time period.

Judge Montero agreed.

Andrews did not address the court. He did, however, write a personal letter to Susan Ramirez in which he expressed his remorse.

MAIT investigates deadly crashes near Lovelock and Fernley

Troopers from the Nevada Highway Patrol Major Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) are continuing to investigate two separate crashes involving wrong-way drivers that killed three motorists on Interstate 80 on Friday (Oct. 14).

The first crash happened around 9:24 pm on the freeway approximately 5 miles west of Lovelock.  The driver of a green 1996 GMC Jimmy SUV, a Lovelock resident, was traveling westbound in the east bound lanes.

The errant SUV sideswiped a white 2006 GMC Sierra pickup pulling a flat bed trailer with Montana license plates and then struck another eastbound vehicle described as a white 2006 Chevrolet Silverado pickup.  After striking the Chevrolet pickup, the SUV came apart and caught fire killing the at-fault driver. The Chevrolet pickup also overturned and caught fire.  None of the other involved motorists were injured in this chain of events.

The second crash took place approximately 1 hour later at 10:24 pm, when troopers were being dispatched to mile marker 46 on Interstate 80 near Fernley.  The involved vehicles were a gold Mercedes Benz sedan and a silver Toyota sedan.  The head-on collision took place in the eastbound lanes which killed both drivers and injured one passenger.  As a result of the collision, both lanes were blocked and eastbound traffic was rerouted around the scene through Wadsworth.

More details about both crashes, including the names of those involved, will be released most likely tomorrow.  The Nevada Highway Patrol-Northern Command Major Accident Investigation Team is investigating both tragedies.

Suspect gets away without guns in hardware store burglary

WINNEMUCCA — They say there’s never a cop around when you need one, but that’s not always true.

An attempted burglary at Reliable Hardware was thwarted early Friday morning (Oct. 14)  when someone attempted to steal guns from the store – with three cops in the parking lot.

According to Police Chief Eric Silva, two WPD officers and a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office deputy were in the parking lot of Reliable touching base after night shift.  They were notified just as they were getting ready to leave that someone had set off the burglary alarms.

Officer Dan Shea did a check of the perimeter and found a rear side door was open. He and Officer Jeff Casalez entered the building where they found the gun department and an office area in disarray.

Detectives Will Bourland and Dave Garrison did a sweep of the building and found a backpack with an AR15 sitting on top and more firearms inside.

Silva theorized the suspect or suspects were spooked by the alarm and the sudden appearance of patrol vehicles in the parking lot, dropped the bag, and took off running.

Silva said while he helped secure the perimeter he could hear rustling in the tall willows behind Reliable.

WPD and HCSO personnel quickly established a perimeter and conducted a thorough grid search of the weeded area adjacent to Interstate 80, but no one connected to the burglary was found.

Silva said while the suspect(s) appeared to have gotten away – at least for now – the important thing was the firearms were secured.

Silva extended his appreciation and that of the WPD to the HCSO personnel who quickly responded to the area to assist with the investigation.

Anyone with information on the burglary may call the WPD 623-6396, HCSO Dispatch 623-6429, or Secret Witness 623-6969.

Sharp gets the max for high-speed pursuit

WINNEMUCCA —The man accused of leading law enforcement on a high-speed pursuit from Grass Valley to downtown was sentenced on Monday (Oct. 10) in 6th Judicial District Court.

Mark Tucker Sharp, 24, was given the maximum sentence of 28-72 months in prison on the charge of felony eluding police in a manner posing danger, a category B felony.  He had no credit for time served.

Louie Landa  (shown above right), formerly with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, told the court incidents began on April 2 when he observed Sharp driving in the subdivision near the airport and attempted to pull him over.

At that time, Sharp had a felony arrest warrant charging arson.

Sharp sped away from the potential traffic stop – at speeds sometimes reaching 100 mph.

Landa discontinued the pursuit at the city limits for fear a member of the public could be injured.

Sharp knew there was a warrant for his arrest because, he said,  Sheriff Ed Kilgore and another man went to his father’s house looking for him.  Deputy Kathy Green went to the workplace of a friend of Sharp’s and left her number so he could call and make arrangements to turn himself in.

However, Sharp said he was advised by his father to be careful because the cops were going to kill him – and that’s why he fled.

He reminded the court the person who shot and killed his younger brother “basically walked”.

He also pointed out he could have taken any number of routes when he fled, but he fled to town and went to the courthouse, but there were no other cops at the courthouse.

So, he went to the house of Sgt. Mike Smock, of the HCSO, because he thought “they’d be crazy to shoot me in front of Smock.”

Sharp ditched his car in front of Smock’s house. He was in Reno the next day.  His older brother learned where he was and called law enforcement, who picked the younger Sharp up without incident.

Sharp apologized to Officer Jeff Lynn, of the Winnemucca Police Department, who was off duty during the pursuit, on his motorcycle, and who had a very close encounter with the speeding vehicle driven by Sharp.

Sharp said Lynn was one of the few cops in town who always gave him a fair shake.  He added he previously apologized to Lynn and his wife for ever putting him in any danger.

Sharp’s attorney, Public Defender Matt Stermitz, asked for the minimum sentence of 19-48 months in prison. He disputed seeing anything in the video of the pursuit, taken from Landa’s dashcam, that caused him to believe the pursuit put anyone in danger.

Deputy DA Roger Whomes asked for the maximum sentence.

He called Sharp’s fear of being shot by the police a fabrication and an outlandish story.  He said, “(Sharp) didn’t want to stop because he didn’t want to go to jail.”

Referencing Sharp’s criminal history, which included a previous prison term for drug trafficking, he described Sharp as someone who fails to conform to social norms, who’s aggressive, has a reckless disregard for the safety of himself and others, who doesn’t work, and who rationalizes everything he does.

Whomes said he did sympathize with the defendant because he probably had a rough upbringing and because he had lingering issues over the murder of his younger brother.

Whomes went on to say while he had sympathy for the defendant, the community needed to be protected from Sharp.  And, to a certain extent, Sharp needed to be protected from himself.

He said, “When Mr. Sharp is incarcerated he can’t get hurt and can’t do these things that are extremely dangerous to himself and others.”

He concluded by expressing his hope the defendant received help for drug addiction and mental health issues while incarcerated.

Sharp remains in custody at the Humboldt County Detention Center pending another sentencing on charges of drug trafficking and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

DPS indicates Lovelock man ‘not likely’ a victim of homicide

On Monday, October 10, 2011, the Lovelock Police Department requested the assistance of the Department of Public Safety, Investigation Division to conduct an investigation into the suspicious death of Emigdio V. Herrera, 55, a long-time resident of Lovelock, Nevada.

The Investigation Division was assisted in the investigation by the Lovelock Police Department, the Forensic Investigative Services unit from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.

Mr. Herrera was last confirmed alive at approximately 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 9, 2011.  He was found by his wife outside their residence, located at 890 Cornell Avenue at approximately 07:45 a.m., on Monday, October 10, 2011.  When law enforcement officers arrived on the scene, they observed that Mr. Herrera had head injuries which caused concern that he may have been the victim foul play.

During the course of the investigation, extensive interviews of Mr. Herrera’s family and associates have been conducted and other investigative follow-up has been completed.  Additional investigative lead follow-up and evidence analysis are still pending.

On October 12, 2011, an autopsy of Mr. Herrera was performed by the Washoe County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office. The examination provided valuable information to the investigation. Although the circumstances surrounding Mr. Herrera’s death are still under investigation, preliminary results indicate that Mr. Herrera was not likely the victim of a homicide. The final results of the autopsy are pending toxicology and it is anticipated that the Washoe County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s autopsy report will take several weeks to be completed.  Once the autopsy report is received, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, who acts as the official Coroner for deaths that occur in the county, will be responsible for the final determination on the manner of Mr. Herrera’s death.

The Investigation Division requests anyone with information relative to the case contact the Major Crimes Unit at 775-684-7427 or the Lovelock Police Department at 775-273-2256.

Farley case bound over to district court

WINNEMUCCA — The man charged in connection to a deadly DUI accident will proceed to 6th Judicial District Court for trial.

John M. Farley, 30,  was charged with DUI causing death for allegedly running his pickup into a pedestrian in the Khoury’s parking lot on Sept. 17.  The pedestrian, Antonia Solis, 73, died six days later.

Farley was in Union Township Justice Court on Thursday (Oct. 6) for a preliminary hearing.  Following testimony, Judge Gene Wambolt ruled sufficient evidence existed to move the case up to district court.

Among those testifying was Lindsay Wilcher, who was in the pickup with Farley at the time of the accident.  According to testimony, the two spent the night hanging out, drinking, and playing pool.

Farley was taking her home because,  Wilcher reported,  she had been drinking, at least ten whiskey and cokes plus shots, and was in no condition to drive.  There were questions she couldn’t answer simply because she couldn’t remember.

She did remember Farley pulling into the parking lot of Khoury’s.  She said Solis appeared to step out of nowhere in front of Farley’s vehicle — at which point she said she screamed.  In response to a question, Wilcher told the court Farley did not have time to stop before hitting her with his pickup truck.

Another witness, Anna Blasengane, told the court she witnessed erratic driving from the pickup truck being driven by Farley before the accident.

Blasengane was a passenger in a car behind Farley’s pickup truck as it proceeded down Hanson St.  She told the court she observed the pickup swerving, and it nearly hit a curb.  Then, at the red light at the intersection of Grass Valley Rd. and Hanson St., the pickup went suddenly from the middle lane to the turn lane and merely paused at the red light before turning on to Grass Valley Rd.

The vehicle Blasengane was in turned onto Grass Valley Rd. in the same direction as the pickup being driven by Farley.  She said the pickup came to her attention again in the parking lot of Khoury’s.  She said she looked over just in time to see the pickup truck strike the victim.

The driver of the passenger vehicle took the next turn into Khoury’s. At the scene Blasengane called 9-1-1.

The witness was asked to describe the victim’s injuries.  She said the woman’s feet under the front tire appeared broken, her head was bleeding, she was struggling to breath, and was foaming at the mouth.

Except for two or three blinks, Solis was unresponsive.

Also testifying on Thursday was Officer Dan Shea, of the Winnemucca Police Department. Under questioning, Shea told the court he made contact with Farley at the scene.  He reported Farley’s eyes were bloodshot, his speech slow, and he smelled of alcohol.

He said Farley acknowledged drinking six vodka drinks. He also reported Farley was not able to complete a field sobriety test satisfactorily.

Farley remains in custody at the Humboldt County Detention Center. As he is on federal parole, he has been placed on a no-bail hold.

(shown above) Farley is shown in Union Township Justice Court with his attorney Sherburne Macfarlan.

NSC denies Quilici appeal

WINNEMUCCA — The Nevada Supreme Court has denied the appeal of a local woman convicted last year of giving away more than $10,000 in merchandise while working as a cashier at Walmart.

Laura Quilici was convicted of felony embezzlement in October 2010. Evidence was presented that, in some cases, Quilici did not charge customers or did not charge the full price for merchandise customers were carrying out of the store.

She was sentenced to a 36-month term of probation, ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $10,382, and must complete 150 hours of community service.  She may not go into the Winnemucca Walmart for the entire term of her probation.

THE APPEAL:  The defendant was represented on appeal by Richard Cornell.

In the appeal Cornell argued Quilici’s Constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial were violated because the facts of the case did not fit the charge she was ultimately convicted of.

In order to convict of embezzlement the state would have to prove 1) she had constructive possession of the items she gave away, and 2) she personally gained from these giveaways.

There was no evidence of this, Cornell argued.

He added there is a different between theft and larceny and embezzlement:  that difference is entrustment. Quilici was never entrusted or in lawful possession of the items she gave away; therefore, no embezzlement.

Insufficient evidence existed to prove the elements of the crime charged, he argued.

He also argued Judge Michael Montero erred in failing to declare a mistrial after a potential juror made a negative comment about the defendant in front of the other jurors.

Further, that Montero abused his discretion when he allowed to potential jurors to be dismissed for cause where no cause existed.

Two jurors acknowledged they knew Quilici and her mother and it would be difficult for them to render a guilty verdict, but they would do it if necessary and would abide by the law.

DENYING THE APPEAL:  In denying the appeal, the NSC ruled the jury’s verdict would not be disturbed where sufficient evidence of guilty existed – with specific reference to the issue of entrustment.

Further, they affirmed the decisions made by Montero.  The NSC ruled there was no error made by the judge and no abuse of discretion.