A man from North Las Vegas shot and killed his 17-year-old girlfriend while playing, what his attorney called, “a stupid prank.”
What Was the “Prank”?
However, prosecutors said that Casey Sandoval, who faced a murder charge for his “prank”, needs to get his story straight. Prosecutors claim that Casey told authorities six different stories about how Ariele Azrate-Lujan died, and during this month’s trial, he offered even more versions of the events.
“Why do we have stories that keep changing over and over and over again?” prosecutor Sarah Overly asked the jurors during her closing argument. “It’s because the truth is worse,” she said.
Casey had placed the .22-caliber handgun so firmly against his girlfriend’s head that her hair was tangled around the weapon and her DNA was found inside the barrel, Overly told the court. Those are not signs of a prank; those are signs of malice and intent.
Public defender Tegan Machnich asked jurors to find Casey guilty of involuntary manslaughter, not murder. “Casey made a terrible decision,” Machnich said during her closing argument. “He played a stupid prank he never should have done.”
What Were the Defendant’s Stories?
So what were some of Casey’s lies about the event in question?
- Casey first told his family that he didn’t know what happened to his girlfriend, feigning shock at her head wound.
- During the 911 call, he informed the dispatcher that young Ariele was bleeding from her head and he did not know why.
- When police arrived at his home, Casey told them that he’d heard a noise and found his girlfriend on the floor, bleeding.
- Later, being questioned further, Casey told the police he’d found the gun and started playing with it. He claimed he then asked Ariele to leave the room once he noticed the gun was loaded. When Ariele bent to get her cellphone, the gun discharged and she fell to the floor.
- In a written statement, Casey said he was in the bathroom when he heard a loud thump.
- Later, he said he found the weapon and tried to remove a bullet form the chamber when “it just fired off.”
- In another story, Casey said the gun jammed (never mentioning cleaning the weapon.)
- Then, during a trial in Clark County District Court, Casey said that Ariele gave him the gun, he pulled the trigger as a prank (while digging the gun into her head) and he had been “unaware” the gun was loaded with a bullet in the chamber.
More Information About the Trial
Overly said that each version of the story changed “to benefit the defendant.” Prosecutors also pointed to a series of text messages in which Casey used a derogatory term to describe his girlfriend. The defense countered this with messages from Ariele that used the same term to describe Casey and argued the couple was just playing around.
The criminal defense attorney acknowledged that their client had lied to the police about several versions of the story, but they said he was now being honest with the jurors.
What Are the Results?
After two days of deliberation, Casey Sandoval was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, dodging the first-degree murder charge.
It’s a pity Ariele hadn’t dodged Casey when she met him.