Jurors hear 911 tape in Ward trial | RecordCourier.com

Jurors hear 911 tape in Ward trial

by Sheila Gardner

Jurors in the trial of Michael Ward accused of involuntary manslaughter listened to a 911 tape Thursday made by a neighbor who first thought the commotion she heard outside her bedroom window was caused by drunken juveniles.

“I was hearing the sound of a man dying,” Valerie Leuchtmann-Vandiver testified.

Leuchtmann-Vandiver, who lived a few doors down from where a fatal fight broke out late June 23, said she was awakened by loud voices and called the non-emergency sheriff’s number to report what she thought was a juvenile party.

“It sounded like a bunch of kids having too much fun,” she said.

Then, Leuchtmann-Vandiver heard someone choking, gagging and vomiting.

She also testified she saw people running back and forth down the street from the Gardnerville Ranchos duplex on Zinfandel to the intersection at Tillman Lane where the body of Jeffrey John, 24, was found.

In the call, Leuchtmann-Vandiver is able to track the movements of the people she sees around the body and leaving the scene.

“The guy thinks he’s dead,” she tells the 911 dispatcher. “They’re just leaving him there.”

She testified she heard two men talk about slitting somebody’s throat and how one said he didn’t want to go to prison.

She said two men tried to move the body, and when they couldn’t, one suggested they “go get Enrique.”

Enrique Garcia, 21, was the tenant of the duplex where the fight broke out. He is serving six months in Douglas County Jail after he admitted helping Ward clean up after the fight and washing Ward’s bloody clothes.

He testified Wednesday that he and the victim’s cousin dated and lived together at the duplex along with his girlfriend’s sister and aunt

When their relationship disintegrated, Garcia asked her to move out.

“I had problems with her sister and aunt and asked them to move out before the accident,” Garcia said. “They started getting in the middle of everything. The way we were living wasn’t right.”

Garcia gave them a month to leave and offered to refund their rent if they moved out sooner, but they declined.

He moved three men into the duplex on June 23, the day of the fatal altercation.

Two groups of people were at the duplex that evening, drinking and listening to music.

Garcia testified that his former girlfriend, Naomi John, threw a beer bottle while they were outside with friends. He said Michael Ward and the victim also were outside with their arms around each other.

“They were shaking hands like everything was all right,” Garcia said.

A few minutes later, a fight broke out in the living room.

Garcia said Ward was pinned under John when he went in to try to break up the fight. Garcia said Aaron Lundy, Ward’s cousin, started a fight with him.

Lundy testified that he heard Ward in the kitchen throwing utensils around.

Investigator Dennis Slater presented two knife blades and handles that were found at the scene. He explained how evidence was collected at the scene that extended from inside the duplex 330 yards to where John’s body was found.

Jurors watched a video of Slater and Sgt. David Aymami filming the blood trail and where the knife blades and handles were recovered.

Slater said the blood wasn’t analyzed because samples were called back by Ward’s defense team and the Washoe County crime lab didn’t have time before the trial to complete the results.

Ward’s trial began Tuesday and is expected to last up to eight days.

The trial attracted a crew from CourtTV Extra that is filming the proceedings for a live Internet broadcast.

Ward, 22, is charged with battery with a deadly weapon causing substantial bodily harm, battery causing substantial bodily harm and involuntary manslaughter in the death of John, a father of four.

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

According to police reports, a fight broke around 11:30 p.m. June 23 at a Gardnerville Ranchos duplex. The altercation spilled outside, down the block and across the street where John’s body was found.

The Washoe County coroner’s office reported the cause of death was probable cardiac arrhythmia – a change in the heartbeat – brought on by the fight.

Ward has been in Douglas County Jail on $100,000 bail since the fight.

He pleaded not guilty, claiming he acted in self-defense.