Ex-GOP official convicted again in Vegas slayings
Associated Press Writer
LAS VEGAS – A Nevada jury found a former county Republican party official guilty for a second time in the murder-for-hire slayings of his ex-wife and her father six years ago.
John Chartier, 41, faces at least 40 years and could get life in prison without parole in the August 2004 stabbing deaths of Rachel Bernat, 43, and her father, Carlos Aragon, 65, prosecutor Robert Daskas said Wednesday.
Sentencing is set for June 21 before Clark County District Court Judge Donald Mosley.
The retrial took six days and included first-time testimony from Chartier. The jury took just 90 minutes to decide Tuesday that Chartier was guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy.
“Now 24 people have said he’s guilty,” Daskas said. “Hopefully that’s enough.”
Both Daskas and defense attorney Robert Draskovich said Chartier’s decision to take the stand Friday and Monday was a turning point in the trial.
“He wanted to tell his story,” Draskovich said Wednesday. “The jury said afterwards it was a close call, but they didn’t find him to be a credible witness.”
Chartier did not testify at his first trial, when he was convicted with co-defendant David Lee Wilcox in 2006.
In their first trial, each was convicted and sentenced to multiple terms of life in prison without parole.
Chartier won a new trial in 2008 when the Nevada Supreme Court ruled he shouldn’t have been tried with Wilcox. The two men presented “antagonistic” defenses, justices said, with Wilcox blaming Chartier and Chartier’s defense that he wasn’t involved in any way.
The high court upheld Wilcox’s conviction, which came after a witness gave a description matching Wilcox, and DNA tests showed drops of blood near the slaying scene matched Wilcox.
Chartier was an accountant and former Clark County GOP party treasurer. Wilcox, now 47, was a military veteran who served in the Middle East and worked for Chartier.
Taking the stand in his second trial, Chartier admitted authoring a crucial piece of evidence – a suicide note written 26 months before the slayings with instructions for Wilcox to “take out mom and grandpa.”
Chartier and Bernat were in a bitter divorce and child custody battle at the time. Draskovich argued that circumstances changed before the slayings happened, days before Bernat planned to move with their young son to New Mexico. The note was later found in Wilcox’s toolbox.
Chartier testified the note no longer had any meaning, because it had been been written more than two years before.
“The jury didn’t believe him,” Daskas said.