Trial in Gardnerville Ranchos death delayed due to investigator's illness

MINDEN - A defense investigator with pneumonia and the possibility of additional evidence led Monday to a two-month delay in the involuntary manslaughter trial of a Gardnerville man accused in the death of Jeffrey John, 24.

District Judge Michael Gibbons granted the delay the day before trial was to begin for Michael Ward, 21, of Gardnerville.

"The court doesn't want a continuance," Gibbons said. "But the right to a fair trial is the most important factor in any decision. It outweighs all other factors."

He canceled the 100-member jury pool called for duty today and set Nov. 29 for new proceedings.

Court TV had planned to broadcast the trial over the Internet.

Ward's lawyer Kevin Walsh asked for the continuance because his principle investigator, Jason Krueger, has pneumonia. Walsh also said he had been denied access to crucial evidence until last week.

"Mr. Walsh established a good cause for the continuance," Gibbons said. "His investigator is ill and in bed. He has not presented reports and there has been a delay in previewing evidence. The issue of a second knife is important and needs to be thoroughly investigated by both sides."

Walsh said Monday his investigator developed a theory that a second knife was thrown out of the Gardnerville Ranchos duplex where a fight erupted late June 23.

John's body was discovered about a block away.

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

Meanwhile, a tenant of the duplex admitted helping Ward wash his bloody clothes and clean up after the fight.

Enrique Garcia, 21, entered an Alford plea in connection with the June 24 incident.

An Alford plea means Garcia doesn't admit committing the crime but agreed there was sufficient evidence he could be found guilty.

Garcia was accused of urging Ward to take a shower after the fight. Garcia admitted washing Ward's bloody clothes before deputies arrived.

Garcia said he was outside when a fight broke out inside the residence. He said he heard something break and when he went inside, John was on top of Ward.

"They went outside after that," he said. "I didn't see what happened."

He said Ward came into his house 30 minutes later and was bleeding. He urged Ward to take a shower and said he washed his clothes before the blood stains set.

"I didn't mean to destroy evidence," he said. "I washed his clothes to wear the next day. I told him to get in the shower to clean himself."

Garcia faces up to a year in Douglas County Jail and a $1,000 fine.


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