Jury finds Ranchos man guilty of lesser charge | RecordCourier.com

Jury finds Ranchos man guilty of lesser charge

by Sheila Gardner

A 23-year-old Gardnerville Ranchos man was convicted Wednesday of a property damage charge by a Douglas County jury which rejected the allegation that he willfully broke into a neighbor’s house frightening a 10-year-old boy home alone.

A jury of four women and eight men found Todd Holdren guilty of injury to property after less than two hours of deliberation and two days of testimony.

Prosecutor Erik Levin had sought conviction on a felony charge of home invasion which carried up to 10 years in prison.

Holdren pleaded not guilty to the home invasion charge.

The conviction carries a maximum of six months in jail if a misdemeanor and one year in jail if sentenced as a gross misdemeanor.

District Judge Michael Gibbons set sentencing for Oct. 18. He will decide the level of the crime, but both sides agreed the property damage was no more than $75.

Holdren served 13 days in jail following his arrest May 14 and is under the supervision of the Department of Alternative Sentencing.

He testified Wednesday that he was drunk at the time and can’t remember any details.

Holdren said he drank 13 shots of tequila before he went to the victim’s house in the 1300 block of Honeybee Lane around 10 p.m. May 14.

The victim lived two doors down from the home where Holdren was staying and recognized him.

The boy, who was 10, testified Tuesday that his father and older brother left the home about 10 p.m. to pick up a pizza and stop by a friend’s to wish him a happy birthday. He said he locked the door, and sat down on the living room couch to watch “Star Wars” with his two dogs.

A few minutes later, the child testified he saw a shadow cross the front door window and thought it was skateboarders or a bicyclist.

He said he heard banging on the door, looked out the window and identified Holgren on the porch.

Jurors heard the boy’s terrified call to 911. A dispatcher stayed on the phone with him for 13 minutes waiting for deputies who arrested Holdren in the driveway of his home.

“There’s a guy beating the door outside our house. My dad isn’t here,” the boy told the dispatcher.

The dispatcher told the child to make sure all the doors and windows were locked.

Holdren left, but came back moments later, yelling for the boy’s father and older brother.

“Please hurry. I’m scared,” the child said.

The boy started screaming when Holdren came inside the house.

“What’s going on?” the dispatcher asked. “Are you still there?”

“He broke the door in,” the boy cried into the phone. “He broke our door.”

The boy testified that Holdren broke the porch light and cut his hand, leaving drops of blood on the door and the wall in the house when he came inside.

He said the suspect crossed the threshold and walked a few steps into the entry, but didn’t go through the house.

Holdren left the house a few minutes later and was arrested in the driveway of the home where he was staying.

The boy was not injured.

He told deputies he believed Holdren was drunk because he was stumbling and speaking unintelligibly except for obscenities.

Holdren testified Wednesday that he can’t remember anything about the incident.

Under questioning by his lawyer, Derrick Lopez, Holdren said he had been despondent since Mother’s Day May 9 because he was unable to visit the grave of his mother who died in March 2007. Holdren said she had been in poor health and they argued the day she died and he was unable to apologize.

“Really harsh words were exchanged between the two of us. She passed away. I feel so guilty. Every Mother’s Day I got to her grave and lay down on a blanket and talk to her. I was supposed to go out there May 9 and I couldn’t,” he said.

Holdren said he started drinking on May 14 and had 13 shots of Jose Cuervo tequila.

Holdren said he had no idea why he went to the victim’s house or why he would be looking for the boy’s father or older brother. He said there had never been any trouble with the family.

The boy testified that he went to the house frequently to play with another boy who lived there.

“I always loved (the victim),” Holdren said. “I would fix his bike, they would come over for barbecues. I would play with him. I wanted to make sure he is happy.”

Holdren said he apologized to the deputy who arrested him and the boy’s father after the incident.

“How would you feel about somebody crashing in the front door and entering the house when (the victim) was alone?” asked Levin.

“I would be concerned if he was safe, if he was OK,” Holdren said.

Holdren said he didn’t believe that the fact he was intoxicated excused his behavior. He testified he has not had any alcohol since his arrest.

In closing arguments, Levin said nobody disputed the facts and the evidence proved all the elements of the offense as charged.

“In our society, you’re not allowed to get drunk, commit these crimes, say ‘sorry’ and that’s the end of it,” Levin said.

Lopez told the jury they were being asked to reach the wrong conclusion.

“What really needs to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt is a willful, forceful entry to the home,” Lopez said.

“There’s no question his conduct on May 14 was criminal,” Lopez said. “This is a drunken obnoxious person demanding to see the older son and father. Once he forcibly entered the house his reaction is ‘OK. I am not going to hurt you.’ He turns around and tries to shut the door while he’s leaving.”

Foreman David Shriver of Minden said the jury looked at Holdren’s intent in coming up with the guilty verdict to the lesser charge.

“He’s a big guy,” Shriver said. “As soon as the door opened, he was in and out fast. It was due to his size, and the fact that he was drunk more than intent to break in the house.”

Dolores Rishton said jurors were able to separate the emotion and urgency of the 911 recording from the facts of the case.

“That little boy was scared to death, but that had no bearing on whether there was willfulness on the defendant’s part to break into the house,” she said.

Levin said he was disappointed with the verdict.

“I certainly disagree with the jury, but it’s their decision to make,” he said.