Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

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February 24, 2014
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Desiree Bragg’s killing was a drunken accident, lawyer says

The lawyer for Leonardo Cardoza told jurors Monday that Desiree Bragg was killed in a drunken accident and that his client didn’t intend to ram his vehicle into her.

She died four days after Cardoza’s vehicle pinned her against the wall of her mother’s North Carson Street home in January 2013.

Cardoza, 27, is being tried on open murder charge in her death along with a count of attempted murder for allegedly trying to kill her fiancé, Steven Castro.

District Attorney Neal Rombardo said Cardoza followed the couple from Lompa Lane to the home on Cinnabar Avenue off College Parkway, tailgating them in an apparent case of road rage. When they parked at Bragg’s mother’s home, Rombardo said, Cardoza parked directly behind her vehicle and, when the two got out, “the minivan backs up and he aims himself at the couple and accelerates.”

He said Castro tried to push his fiancee to one side but that the van headed straight for her and crushed her against the house, then backed up and sped away, crashing into a yard down the street.

In Cardoza’s confused state, he returned down the street to the scene, where Castro beat him with a wooden chair leg.

Cardoza’s lawyer Jesse Kalter said Bragg’s death was “an absolute tragedy, horrible.”

“But that does not mean she was murdered,” he said.

He denied that his client followed the couple all the way from Lompa Lane.

Kalter said Cardoza was extremely intoxicated following the death of a family member on the night of Bragg’s Jan. 26 death and pulled into the driveway behind her vehicle by accident. There, he said, Cardoza was attacked by Castro, who tried to escape by getting back into his silver-colored minivan.

“He was assaulted, scared, heavily intoxicated and simply thought he was putting his parked vehicle into reverse,” Kalter said.

He said Cardoza accidentally put the car in drive instead of reverse and “punched it,” crashing into Bragg.

“That’s a tragedy, but that’s not murder,” Kalter said.

He pointed out that only two living people know exactly what happened that night — his client and Castro — and told jurors it is unlikely they will hear directly from Castro.

Rombardo and Assistant District Attorney Mark Krueger told District Judge James Wilson that Castro has not complied with a subpoena to appear and testify because he is facing several Carson City warrants, including for probation violations. He said in that event, Castro’s testimony from the preliminary hearing will be read into the record when the trial resumes Wednesday morning.

Most of Monday was taken up with jury selection, which wasn’t completed until 3:45 p.m. The trial is scheduled to last eight days.

In addition to acquittal, jurors could find Cardoza guilty of first- or second-degree murder.


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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jun 27, 2014 04:38PM Published Mar 1, 2014 12:33AM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.