Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2021

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Case of bookmaker’s death appealed

Defense attorney Daniel Albregts was blunt Monday when he appeared before a panel of Nevada Supreme Court justices.

Amy DeChant couldn't possibly have killed her boyfriend. She weighs 120 pounds. Bruce Weinstein weighed 300 pounds.

His argument was one of the more interesting ones heard by Justices Miriam Shearing, Bill Maupin and Nancy Becker during their visit to Las Vegas Monday.

The justices are in town to hear a number of appellate issues in a variety of cases, both civil and criminal. They are expected to make their decisions within the next few months.

DeChant and Robert Wayne Jones were convicted in the July 1996 shooting death of Weinstein, a wealthy 46-year-old bookmaker who was DeChant's boyfriend.

Weinstein disappeared in July 1996 and his body was discovered in the desert two months later. DeChant and Jones were charged with his murder in 1998 and were convicted later that year.

DeChant had claimed that Weinstein was killed by mobsters who allowed her to live on the condition she clean the murder scene and keep quiet.

DeChant was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole, and Jones, who supplied DeChant the murder weapon and helped her clean up Weinstein's bloody home, was given a five-year sentence.

Albregts argued Monday that DeChant deserves a new trial because insufficient evidence was presented at her first trial to sustain a conviction.

"This is a case about a woman convicted of a crime she didn't commit," Albregts said.

Albregts argued it was impossible for DeChant, who weighs 120 pounds, to have shot the 300-pound Weinstein, dragged him from his upstairs bedroom, put him into a car, rolled him down a ditch in the desert and placed boulders on his head.

District Judge Sally Loehrer erred by allowing a detective to testify about mob hits when he is not considered an expert on organized crime, Albregts said.

Despite what the detective said, Albregts said DeChant's version of events "is not that farfetched," Albregts said.

Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo argued that there is plenty of evidence that indicated DeChant was rightfully convicted. She fled Las Vegas twice, changed her identity and sought countries without extradition treaties.

Special Deputy Public Defender Kristina Wildeveld argued that her client, Jones, also had nothing to do with the murder. He merely cleaned up a brown spot on a rug at DeChant's request. He didn't know it was what remained of a bloody crime scene already cleaned up by DeChant, Wildeveld said.

Wildeveld told the judges that prosecutors acted inappropriately when they didn't tell Jones he was a suspect in the case and yet had him testify before the grand jury that ultimately indicted him.

DiGiacomo said no one knew Jones was going to be indicted.

"This is not a case where the defendant is snowballed into thinking 'I can go in, give my story and nothing is never, ever going to happen to me,' " DiGiacomo said.

The judges also heard from defense attorney David Schieck, who represents Richard Christopher Johnson.

Johnson was given two life terms in February 1998 in the shooting death of George Hightower, 45.

Johnson shot Hightower eight times in the valet parking area of Caesars Palace during the Larry Holmes-Oliver McCall prizefight. Witnesses testified at his trial that Johnson fired several shots into Hightower's body and then danced around his body before putting the pistol in the dead man's hand and calmly walking away.

Schieck said Johnson should get a new trial because District Judge John McGroarty refused to let Johnson represent himself and he was forced to work alongside Special Public Defender Phil Kohn.

Kim Smith covers courts for the Sun. She can be reached at (702) 259-2321 or by e-mail at [email protected]