$2 million bail set in Sparks trespasser killing; murder case evokes 'stand your ground'

Scott Sonner / The Associated Press
June 12, 2014 05:30 PM

SPARKS, Nev. - Bail was set at $2 million Thursday for a 73-year-old former school teacher charged with murder in the shooting of two unarmed trespassers that is bringing attention to Nevada's "stand your ground" law.

Wayne Burgarello, who cried out at his bail hearing in pain he blamed on inadequate medical care at the county jail, insists he was acting in self-defence in February when he killed a 34-year-old man and seriously wounded a woman he found in a vacant house he owns in Sparks.

Bugarello shot Cody Devine, 34, five times, once in the head, after Burgarello said Devine had raised his arm at him in a threatening manner, police said.

Washoe County prosecutor Bruce Hahn said in Sparks Justice Court on Thursday the evidence will show Devine's "wound track belies his claim of self-defence."

"No other weapons were found," he said.

Sparks Justice of the Peace Chris Wilson said the seriousness of the charges and concern about the safety of the community outweighed any presumption of innocence at a bail hearing. He also cited the seven long-barrelled guns, five hand guns and nearly a dozen knives police said they found in a safe at Burgarello's home, along with a pair of brass knuckles, which are illegal to possess in Nevada.

Burgarello's public defender, Justin Champagne, wanted bail set at $20,000. He insisted the elderly man who has suffered a heart attack and two strokes is not a flight risk.

Champagne said it will be impossible to post such excessive bail at the Washoe County Jail, which he said is subjecting itself to liability by failing to provide Burgarello the necessary medication in solitary confinement.

"He deserves to be released from jail," Champagne said, adding his assets total perhaps $150,000.

Burgarello is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing in justice court on June 26 on charges of killing Devine and attempting to kill Janai Wilson, 29. She told police they had been sleeping when Burgarello burst in on Feb. 13 and started yelling at them. She said Devine raised up on an elbow before the shooting began.

Nevada is one of more than 30 states that have "stand your ground" laws that allow deadly force against attackers posing an imminent threat. The law doesn't require the attacker to be armed, but it says the shooter cannot be the original aggressor.

Like a previous bail hearing where Burgarello appeared confused and said he couldn't hear the judge, he was unshaven with disheveled grey hair and a slight smile as he shuffled into the courtroom Thursday in leg chains with handcuffs locked to his waste. He was given a head set to aid his hearing.

The 45-minute proceeding was interrupted midway through when he suddenly stood up at the defence table and grabbed his leg, saying "Ahhhh. Oww. Oww."

"I'm sorry," Burgarello said as he turned to look at family members in the courtroom gallery.

"It's nerve pains form the wrong medicine," he said. "I'm not doing this for some theatrics ... Laying on a cold concrete floor all night in jail."

The judge called a five-minute recess before eventually making his ruling, which would require Burgarello to post a bond for $200,000 and document collateral worth the other $1.8 million.

"Setting no bail would be excessive. But $20,000 is not even close," Wilson said. At a bail hearing, he said, "in the interest of community safety, we must take the facts as alleged by the state to be true."


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