NLV man con­victed of lesser charge in girl­friend’s 2015 death

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NEVADA - By David Ferrara Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal

A North Las Ve­gas man was con­victed Fri­day of in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter in the fa­tal shoot­ing of his 17-year-old girl­friend more than three years ago.

Casey Sandoval, now 19, told ju­rors, who de­lib­er­ated the case for two days, that he un­in­ten­tion­ally shot and killed Ariele Azrate-lu­jan af­ter point­ing a gun at her head as a prank.

The jury ac­quit­ted Sandoval of grand lar­ceny of a firearm. Deputy pub­lic de­fend­ers Te­gan Mach­nich and Robert O’brien said Sandoval wept af­ter the ver­dicts were read.

“We’re happy they rec­og­nized he didn’t know the gun was loaded,” O’brien said. “It’s ul­ti­mately what we were try­ing to ex­plain the en­tire time, and what he’s been say­ing for three years.”

Pros­e­cu­tors said Sandoval, who was on trial for mur­der, in­ten­tion­ally shot Azrate-lu­jan in the head. They ar­gued that he told sev­eral dif­fer­ent sto­ries about how she died in Oc­to­ber 2015.

Sandoval tes­ti­fied that he called 911 and falsely told a dis­patcher that his girl­friend had fallen and ap­par­ently hit her head while he was in the bath­room.

He said on the wit­ness stand that he was scared at the time

VER­DICT

and re­gret­ted the lie.

Pros­e­cu­tors de­clined to com­ment af­ter the ver­dicts.

The .22-cal­iber hand­gun was pressed so firmly against Azrate-lu­jan’s head that her hair was tan­gled around the weapon, and her DNA was found in­side the bar­rel, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors, who asked ju­rors for a ver­dict of first-de­gree mur­der.

De­fense lawyers, mean­while, sought the in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter con­vic­tion, call­ing the shoot­ing a “ter­ri­ble de­ci­sion.” They ar­gued that Sandoval, at 16, did not con­sider the con­se­quences of his ac­tions.

Pros­e­cu­tors showed ju­rors a se­ries of text mes­sages in which Sandoval used a deroga­tory term to de­scribe Azrate-lu­jan. But de­fense at­tor­neys coun­tered with mes­sages from Azrate-lu­jan that used the same term to de­scribe Sandoval, ar­gu­ing that the two were play­ing with each other.

De­fense lawyers ac­knowl­edged that Sandoval had lied to po­lice but said he was hon­est with ju­rors.

Dis­trict Judge Dou­glas Hern­don re­leased Sandoval on his own re­cog­ni­zance in the case re­lated to Azrate-lu­jan’s death, but the de­fen­dant re­mains in the Clark County De­ten­tion Cen­ter on an un­re­lated charge.

Con­tact David Ferrara at dfer­rara@re­viewjour­nal.com or 702-380-1039. Fol­low @ ran­dom­poker on Twit­ter.

Casey Sandoval

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