Gardnerville man sentenced to six months in jail in fatal fight

District Judge Michael Gibbons sentenced a Gardnerville man to six months in jail Monday saying he didn't believe the 21-year-old's denial that he tried to cover up evidence after a fatal fight.

Enrique Garcia entered an Alford plea to dissuading a person from producing evidence in connection with the June 24 brawl which took the life of a 24-year-old Markleeville man.

Garcia was accused of urging Michael Ward, 22, of Gardnerville to shower after a fight with Jeffrey John. Garcia admitted washing Ward's bloody clothes before deputies arrived.

Garcia did not admit wrongdoing, but agreed there was sufficient evidence he could be found guilty of more serious charges.

Three felonies were dropped in exchange for his plea and the prosecution agreed to recommend probation, but Gibbons refused.

"I have a really hard time accepting your story that you had no idea what was happening," Gibbons said. "Your activity helped impede this investigation. If you really thought you were not guilty, you should have gone to trial.

"You were not just helping someone because their clothing was stained. You were trying to hide evidence."

At his arraignment Oct. 5, Garcia said he was outside when a fight broke out inside his Gardnerville Ranchos duplex. He said he heard something break and when he went inside, John was on top of Ward.

The two took their fight outside and Garcia said he didn't see what happened. Ward returned 30 minutes later bleeding and covered with blood.

Garcia said he washed Ward's clothes immediately because he didn't want the blood stains to set.

Garcia's lawyer, Matthew Ence, told the judge his client would not have allowed Ward in his residence had he known about the fight.

"My impression of Enrique is that he's a good kid," Ence said. "He didn't do anything wrong. He knows because of what he wants to do in the future, he has no options."

Ence said Garcia hoped to join the military.

Lois DeForest testified at the sentencing that she befriended Garcia in 2002 when he was sent to Rite of Passage from Southern California.

She said Garcia told her that when he was 4, his parents gave him to a woman in Mexico who abused him. He crossed the border alone at age 12 and was taken in by a gang in Los Angeles.

He was arrested with a gang member and placed in a series of foster homes from which he ran away.

DeForest testified that a judge placed him at Rite of Passage to get him out of Southern California.

When he graduated from the program for juvenile offenders, DeForest invited him to live with her and her children.

"Enrique is an inspiration to me," she said. "He has been through so much in his life, but never once used it as a crutch. He is an awesome person with a big heart. He is like a member of the family."

Gibbons told Garcia that DeForest's statement helped convince him not to sentence the defendant to a maximum year in Douglas County Jail.

"Your attorney did an excellent job to avoid the felony charge," Gibbons said. "Your life is going to go on. You will be getting out of custody. If you want to go in the service, that is great."

Ward is set to go on trial Nov. 29 in connection with the incident. He is in Douglas County Jail on $100,000 bail.

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

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

The Washoe County coroner reported that John died of probably cardiac arrhythmia - an unnatural change in the heart beat - following a physical altercation.


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