Hearing delayed for 'less culpable' defendant in Ranchos homicide case

MINDEN - Missing witnesses and the unavailability of a medical expert led to a delay Thursday in proceedings against a defendant in the death of a Woodfords man whose body was found after an altercation in the Gardnerville Ranchos.

Both sides agreed to resume a preliminary hearing Sept. 29 for Enrique Garcia, 20, accused as "less culpable" in the June 24 death of Jeffrey John, 24.

Garcia, who bailed out of Douglas County Jail on Thursday, is charged with aiding or abetting battery with a deadly weapon causing substantial bodily harm, aiding or abetting a battery causing substantial bodily harm and aiding or abetting involuntary manslaughter.

Garcia is accused of encouraging co-defendant Michael Ward to shower after the incident and wash his clothes at Garcia's residence.

Ward, 21, is charged with battery with a deadly weapon causing substantial bodily harm, battery causing substantial bodily harm and involuntary manslaughter.

He is accused of cutting John with a knife, hitting and kicking him and killing the father of four during the commission of an unlawful act.

Ward remained in custody in Douglas County Jail on $100,000 bail. His preliminary hearing is set for July 14.

According to court documents, a fight broke out at Garcia's Zinfandel duplex shortly after midnight June 24 and spilled outside, down the block and across the street where John's body was discovered in the front yard of a home on Tillman Lane.

Prosecutor Dina Salvucci said Thursday that the East Fork constable and investigators from the district attorney's office had been unable as late as Wednesday night to find six witnesses for the hearing.

She said 13 witnesses were available Thursday as well as law enforcement officers who would be called to testify.

Salvucci said she was reluctant to call the witnesses into court for new subpoenas Thursday because some feared retaliation for their testimony. She said new subpoenas requiring the witnesses to testify Sept. 29 would be distributed before they left the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

Salvucci said some forensic evidence wouldn't be ready for up to 10 weeks.

East Fork Justice Jim EnEarl agreed to the continuance, but said he disliked waiting so long for the proceeding to determine if there is enough evidence to prove a crime was committed.

"The people in this courtroom and Mr. Garcia are entitled to some answers from this court," EnEarl said.

He encouraged Salvucci and defense lawyer Matthew Ence to continue negotiations and to move up the court date if possible.

EnEarl asked Garcia if he agreed with Thursday's actions.

"Yes, sir," Garcia answered. "That's fine with me."

On Tuesday, Constable Paul Gilbert, filling in for EnEarl, agreed to lower Garcia's bail from $100,000 to $15,000.

Ence argued that Garcia had strong ties to the community and was not a flight risk. He said the $100,000 bail was prohibitively high.

He asked Gilbert to release Garcia on his own recognizance or lower the bail to $5,000. Gilbert lowered the amount to $15,000 and Garcia was able to be released from jail on a $1,500 bond.

He is to abstain from drugs, alcohol and weapons and is subject to random search and seizure by the alternative sentencing department.

EnEarl urged Garcia to abide by the terms of his release.

"Let me admonish you. Don't drink and don't smoke dope. I am not implying that you have or you will, but if you violate any laws, you will end up back in jail."

Gilbert refused Ence's second motion Tuesday to bar the public from the proceedings because of what Ence called "massive, highly prejudicial publicity" in The Record-Courier.

Gilbert said Ence's concerns were unfounded and he refused to close proceedings to the press and public.

Family and friends of the victim as well as the defendants have regularly attended court sessions.

A funeral service is set for 11 a.m. today for John at Walton's Chapel of the Valley in Carson City. Burial is to follow in the Woodfords Cemetery.

n Contact reporter Sheila Gardner at sgardner@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 214.


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