Judge won't exclude statements in Ranchos manslaughter case

MINDEN - District Judge Michael Gibbons ruled as admissible Monday three police interviews from defendant Michael Ward in the hours following the June 24 death of a 24-year-old Markleeville man.

Gibbons heard 21Ú2 hours of testimony Monday from jail personnel, deputies, investigators and the 22-year-old defendant's mother as to Ward's medical condition and whether he'd been properly advised of his rights following the fatal fight.

Jury selection is to begin today in the trial, which is expected to last six to eight days.

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

Ward's lawyer, Kevin Walsh, filed motions to exclude the testimony because he said his client didn't understand his rights and didn't receive medical care for a head injury.

Prosecutor Dina Salvucci offered transcripts and witnesses that Ward was advised of his rights, consented to be interviewed and that his injuries didn't require treatment.

Gibbons agreed.

"The court does not have to suppress the evidence, and it would be improper to do so," Gibbons said.

After listening to portions of the interviews, Gibbons said the investigators properly advised Ward and his answers indicated he understood.

"Mr. Ward knew what was happening," Gibbons said. "He understood his rights and gave permission to be questioned."

Gibbons said it was speculation that Ward suffered a head injury.

"There was no medical issue that affected his cognition or safety," Gibbons said. "The conclusion can't be drawn that Mr. Ward had a concussion."

Ward's mother, Donna Bevilla, testified that she didn't see her son until two days after his arrest.

"He did not look normal to me at all," she said. "He looked very, very confused."

At one point during her testimony, Bevilla began crying, prompting her son to offer words of comfort from the defendant's table.

"Don't cry, Mom. It's OK. I'm fine," Ward said.

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

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

According to police reports, a fight broke out 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.


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