Raul Garcia Jr. will be arraigned April 7 on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Nevada Insurance Examiner William McCune.
After a two-day preliminary hearing, Justice of the Peace John Tatro ruled there was sufficient evidence to try him on the charges despite the refusal of a key witness to testify in the case. Michael Evans was allowed to plead to second-degree murder and sentenced to 10-25 years in prison in exchange for agreeing to testify against Garcia; his refusal to testify jeopardizes that agreement.
Prosecutor Mark Krueger told Tatro the probable-cause standard was more than met by witnesses including Detective Sal Acosta, who interviewed Evans about the murder, and Garcia’s statements basically admitting to the crime after his arrest in Las Vegas.
Evans, according to Acosta, admitted his part in the crime and implicated Garcia and Anthony Elliott, who has also pleaded guilty and been sentenced. Those admissions and his agreement to testify got him the plea bargain.
Garcia said he was the first to hit McCune on the head with a stick because “he was the person who had the heart to do it,” Detective Doug Speegle said.
“There is more than ample evidence,” Krueger said.
But defense counsel John Springgate said that, without the statements by Evans and Garcia, there really isn’t evidence to support the charges. He said the detective’s statements as to what Evans said originally have to be ignored and that Garcia’s statements to detectives can’t be used to implicate him. He said the prosecution case, at this point, rests completely on the testimony of the two detectives because no one who was in the room when McCune was beaten is available and willing to testify.
That raises a legal issue that may be the subject of a habeas corpus motion to dismiss the charges after Garcia’s arraignment, Springgate said after the hearing.
Tatro said there are “mountains of circumstantial evidence” in the case, more than enough to meet the probable-cause standard and send the case to district court.
Krueger made it clear he intends to seek a judge’s decision revoking Evans’ agreement and bringing Evans back to court to face the same first-degree murder charge that Garcia faces.
Speegle testified that Garcia admitted he, Evans and Elliott went to McCune’s apartment on Silver Oak Drive to rob him because Elliott said McCune had lots of money and property they could steal. Once inside, he said, Garcia told him he was the one who first hit McCune and that the other two followed, beating McCune with an umbrella and golf club in an attempt to get personal identification numbers for his credit cards and other valuables.
He said Garcia also admitted returning the next day to steal more things, wrapping and binding McCune’s body in a blanket with duct tape and dumping it in the Carson River.
First-degree murder carries a maximum of life in prison without possible parole or execution. The District Attorney’s office hasn’t decided whether to seek the death penalty.