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Jury finds man guilty in machete attack case

A prosecutor derided a North Las Vegas man’s claim Wednesday that he was too drunk to remember splitting his ex-girlfriend’s scalp and nearly severing her arms with an 18-inch machete.

“Being blackout drunk doesn’t give you an excuse to try to behead a woman,” Senior Deputy Clark County District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo said as he ended closing arguments in the trial of Armando Vergara-Martinez.

“The only question is whether when he swung the machete, he intended to kill her,” DiGiacomo said.

Vergara-Martinez, 51, was the only defense witness before a state court jury found him guilty on charges of attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm and mayhem stemming from the March 2012 attack on Maria Del Carmen Gomez.

The defense did not challenge the lesser two charges he faced but argued that Vergara-Martinez, who had consumed numerous beers before the attack, did not have the mental ability to form the intent to kill.

“We’re almost certain that we’ll appeal,” Deputy Public Defender Tegan Machnich said after hearing the verdict.

The defendant will remain in custody until his sentencing on May 1.

Gomez survived the attack in the parking lot of the North Las Vegas convenience store where she worked.

Surgeons repaired her scalp and reattached her hands, and she spent several months as an advocate and spokeswoman for tougher laws against domestic violence before she died six months later from unrelated cancer. She was 53.

Gomez’s friends and supporters staged a protest Monday on the courthouse steps to call attention to Vergara-Martinez’s trial, and someone in the court gallery clapped a couple of times Wednesday after DiGiacomo urged the jury to return a guilty verdict.

Clark County District Court Judge Abbi Silver instructed jurors to disregard the outburst from the audience and declared that if she knew who was responsible for it she would throw him or her in jail for contempt of court.

But the judge rejected defense attorney Kambiz Shaygan’s request for a mistrial on the claim that the jury had been tainted.

Vergara-Martinez’s public defenders on Tuesday conceded his guilt on charges of mayhem and domestic battery with a weapon, which could get him three to 25 years in state prison.

Machnich said that showed that Vergara-Martinez took responsibility for his actions.

When Vergara-Martinez testified Wednesday, Shaygan asked if he remembered anything about the attack or at any point wanting to kill Gomez.

No, Vergara-Martinez responded through a Spanish language interpreter.

“I don’t remember because I was drunk,” he said.

Jurors were told that Vergara-Martinez left a letter before the attack and slit his own throat with a box cutter afterward. North Las Vegas police found him next to Gomez in a pool of blood.

Vergara-Martinez testified that the letter was in his handwriting, but he didn’t remember writing it.

It speaks of Gomez betraying him, seeks forgiveness from his children and says, “I know I am doing wrong for what I’m about to do to Maria.”

Vergara-Martinez wept as he testified that after getting off work as a landscaper about 1 p.m., he drank several 24-ounce cans of beer in a park and had several drinks at a bar before the attack a little before 11:30 p.m.

He said he was upset that Gomez broke up with him.

DiGiacomo set a scene of Gomez on the ground, using her arms to try to shield her head from the attack, and mocked the idea that Vergara-Martinez could drink away his criminal responsibility.

“He admitted to you what he can’t deny,” DiGiacomo said of the defendant. “It’s irrelevant whether he remembers committing the crime. It matters whether he intended to kill.”

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