Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

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February 28, 2014
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Suspect in Carson City death expected to testify Monday

Leonardo Cardoza is expected to take the stand Monday to tell jurors the death of Desiree Bragg was an accident, not intentional.

She was crushed against the wall of her mother’s Carson City house when Cardoza’s minivan crashed into her about 9 p.m. Jan. 26, 2013. Prosecutors say that happened after Cardoza followed Bragg and her fiancé across town, tailgating them in an apparent case of road rage.

Defense lawyer Jesse Kalter brought testimony from a crime lab scientist Friday to bolster his argument that Cardoza was trying to get away from Bragg’s fiancé, Steven Castro, after accidentally pulling into the driveway where they were. Kalter said his client, fearful and very intoxicated, put the vehicle in drive instead of reverse and “stomped it,” crashing into her.

Rachelle Spear, a criminalist who specializes in drug and alcohol testing at the Washoe County Regional Crime Lab, told the court it is possible to approximate the amount of alcohol in Cardoza’s system using tests conducted at Renown Regional Medical Center seven and a half hours later.

She estimated his maximum blood-alcohol level at that time could have been 0.275 percent — more than three times the legal limit for drivers.

Spear said she could make that calculation because alcohol is eliminated in each person’s body in a steady amount per hour — in Cardoza’s case, about 0.02 percent an hour.

The test results from the lab showed that Cardoza was also under the influence of marijuana.

Bragg died four days later of her injuries, and Cardoza is charged with her murder and with the attempted murder of Castro.

When a person has both marijuana and alcohol in his or her system, Spear testified, they enhance each other’s effects on the body and brain.

“For somebody who doesn’t drink regularly, this would be a very large amount of alcohol and I would expect everybody but an alcoholic to be very impaired,” she said.

District Attorney Neil Rombardo questioned whether Cardoza was an occasional drinker, pointing out that a paramedic at the scene described him as “three out of four” on his ability to comprehend what was going on around him and answer the medic’s questions.

Spear said that if Cardoza was able to function that well with that much alcohol in his system, he likely is an alcoholic who built up a strong tolerance.

“I would expect this person to be disoriented and not thinking clearly,” she said.

Under questioning by Kalter, she emphasized the conclusion: “I would expect most people to be too drunk to do anything at those levels.”

The trial, which began Monday, is expected to conclude by Wednesday.


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The Nevada Appeal Updated Feb 28, 2014 10:50PM Published Mar 1, 2014 12:32AM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.