Cause of death pending in beating death

Belinda Grant/Appeal News Service Michael Ward was arraigned in Justice Court Monday.

Belinda Grant/Appeal News Service Michael Ward was arraigned in Justice Court Monday.

MINDEN - Accused killer Michael Ward took a shower and washed his clothes after he allegedly beat a 24-year-old Markleeville man and cut him with a kitchen knife, according to statements at a hearing Monday.

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

He is accused of cutting Jeffrey John with a knife, hitting and kicking him and killing the father of four during fight outside a residence in the Gardnerville Ranchos early Friday morning.

Ward, 21, and Enrique Garcia, 20, originally held on open murder charges, remained in Douglas County Jail on $100,000 bail each.

Charges were dropped against a third defendant, Jason Wellington, 21, who had been held as an accessory to murder.

Wellington was released from Douglas County Jail on Monday and ordered by subpoena to be available to testify for subsequent proceedings.

Investigators are awaiting the cause of John's death pending autopsy results.

Wearing a blue jail uniform and handcuffed at the wrists and ankles, Ward told East Fork Justice Jim EnEarl on Monday he couldn't afford to hire a lawyer or raise the bail amount.

"I think it should be lower, $15,000," Ward said. "I don't have that kind of money."

EnEarl left bail at $100,000 and appointed lawyer Tod Young to represent Ward.

Garcia was 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.

He was accused of encouraging Ward to shower after the incident and wash his clothes as well as attempting to hide the knife.

Lawyer Matthew Ence was appointed to represent Garcia. Their next court appearance is Wednesday.

Deputies said the fight started shortly after midnight at Garcia's residence on Zinfandel Drive in the Gardnerville Ranchos and spilled outside, down the block and across the street where John's body was found.

Each charge against Ward carries penalties of up to 10-15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.

Prosecutor Dina Salvucci said deputies originally were called to the Zinfandel address on a report of a loud party. Just as they arrived, a caller reported John's body was in the yard of a house on Tillman Lane, about a block away.

She said there was no evidence to prove the elements of murder which would include premeditation.

"This appears to be an extremely reckless act that caused the death of someone," she said.

Salvucci said investigators were still looking for one person who reportedly attended the party. She said deputies have not yet determined what sparked the fatal altercation.

Nearly two dozen friends and relatives of John attended Monday's hearing in East Fork Justice Court. Seven uniformed deputies and other court personnel observed the 20-minute proceeding.

Dinah Pete said in an interview that her grandson was devoted to his family. He is survived by four children.

"He grew up around here and went to Douglas High School," Pete said. "He was just a lovable person. He was the greatest grandson anyone could have asked for."

She said John enjoyed sports, especially wrestling.

"He respected everyone," she said.

n Contact reporter Sheila Gardner at or 782-5121, ext. 214.

You can help

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office is looking for people who may have information regarding an altercation early Friday at 1294

Zinfandel Drive in the Gardnerville Ranchos.

Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator Phil Lesquereux at 782-9927 or Secret Witness at



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