RENO — A new lawyer for a 73-year-old Sparks man accused of fatally shooting an unarmed trespasser has waived the former schoolteacher’s preliminary hearing and says that they are ready to go to trial to prove he acted in self-defense.
Authorities allege Wayne Burgarello killed a 34-year-old man and seriously wounded a woman he found inside a vacant home he owns in February in an unprovoked attack. He will be formally arraigned on murder and attempted-murder charges Sept. 3.
There has been a rush to judgment among some regarding the applicability of Nevada’s “stand your ground” law, his lawyer, Theresa Ristenpart, said in a statement Monday explaining why she waived the hearing that determines if there is enough evidence to go to trial.
More than 30 states have self-defense laws that allow deadly force against attackers posing an imminent threat regardless of whether the aggressor is armed. Nevada law says the shooter cannot be “the original aggressor.”
“While ‘stand your ground’ laws have become a politically charged issue in the last year, we ask that the public and the media not imply such political overtones to this case,” Ristenpart said.
She said she is confident the trial will show Burgarello acted in self-defense. But prosecutors say the shootings were unprovoked.
Burgarello fatally shot Cody Devine five times, once in the head, and seriously wounded Janai Wilson, 29, after Burgarello said Devine had raised his arm at him in a threatening manner, detectives said.
Washoe County prosecutor Bruce Hahn said in June that the evidence will show Devine’s “wound track belies his claim of self-defense.”
A judge scheduled a hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday to consider lowering the $2 million bail for Burgarello, who previously was represented by public defenders. They argued in an earlier motion to release him on his own recognizance that the elderly man has suffered a heart attack and two strokes and is not a flight risk. They said he is suffering from “excruciating pain, crippling pain” and should be placed under house arrest so his own doctor can care for him.
“He simply is not receiving proper medical attention at the Washoe County jail,” public defender Sean Sullivan told a judge in July.
Ristenpart said she still has not received from prosecutors a significant amount of required information, including the autopsy, forensics and toxicology reports for Devine and Wilson.
Without those, she said it made no sense to have a preliminary hearing, given that the defense counsel is not allowed to subpoena witnesses at such hearings without the court’s permission, nor cross-examine the witnesses.
Ristenpart declined to comment further on Tuesday.