Suspect in Carson woman’s slaying says her death was a surprise to him

Jesse Kalter asks a question during testimony in district court on Friday while Leonardo Cardoza looks on.

Jesse Kalter asks a question during testimony in district court on Friday while Leonardo Cardoza looks on.

Leonardo Cardoza testified Monday that he wasn’t aware his car had crashed into Desiree Bragg until detectives told him the following day.

Cardoza, 28, is charged with murdering her by smashing his minivan into her the night of Jan. 26, 2013, in an apparent road-rage incident.

He said that when he first was interviewed by a detective, “I told him I was the one who got beat up.”

Cardoza added, “He told me I got beat up because I hit a woman with my car.”

“That’s when I learned I hit someone,” he said. “I panicked.”

He said he pulled into the driveway behind Bragg’s car to make a U-turn but that Bragg’s fiancé, Steven Castro, came to his driver’s window “extremely angry,” cursing and yelling at him.

He said he doesn’t know why Castro was so angry. He added that his door was pulled open, and Castro hit him on the head with a wooden club.

Cardoza said he was extremely intoxicated after a night of drinking in three bars, and reeling from the blow to the head.

“I felt like I was going to pass out from the blow,” he testified. “I needed to get out of there. I put it in gear and I punched it.”

“I tried to put it in reverse and leave,” he said. “Instead, I put it in drive and crashed into the house.”

The Honda roared forward, crushing Bragg against the wall. He said that when he backed up, Castro dragged him from his car and started beating him with the wooden table leg. He finally got back in and drove off, only to crash a block away into someone’s backyard, he said.

Drunk, injured and confused, he went back up Cinnabar Avenue only to be beaten again and so badly that he doesn’t remember paramedics treating him, the flight to Renown hospital or the trip back to Carson City, he said.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Krueger pointed to numerous falsehoods Cardoza told detectives over the course of several interviews, including that he had drunk just a couple of beers at Bully’s when in fact he was never there, and denying he had smoked marijuana when he had done so the previous day. Cardoza testified Monday that he drank about nine beers at Bodines before leaving because of racist comments from a couple of other patrons. He said he had more beers at the Blue Bull and Jimmy G’s along with a shot of hard liquor before deciding to go to his sister’s home.

Cardoza said he ended up on Cinnabar, the scene of the incident, by accident and not because he was following Bragg and Castro, as Castro claimed during the preliminary hearing. Castro was summoned but never showed up to testify at trial.

Hurt, scared and intoxicated, Cardoza said he “tangled up a web” of lies to tell detectives investigating the case.

“I’ve never been in any kind of trouble, and I panicked,” he said.

Cardoza described the victim’s death as “a massive tragedy.” He said it was an accident, not intentional.

“I feel horrible about it,” he said. “Horrible isn’t a strong enough word.”

The trial is expected to resume — and conclude — Wednesday before District Judge James Wilson with closing arguments from both sides.

After that, it’s up to the jury to decide.


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