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.