Punter considered rooming with accused stabber | VailDaily.com

Punter considered rooming with accused stabber

Pat Graham
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
AP Photo/Bret Hartman, PoolRafael Mendoza's sister, Rosie Mendoza Calderon, is brought to tears as they listen to the 911 tape of the night her brother was stabbed, during the attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault trial of Mitch Cozad in Greeley, Colo., Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007.

GREELEY ” A college punter who was attacked by a knife-wielding man testified Thursday he once considered sharing his apartment with the teammate accused of the assault.

Rafael Mendoza, a starting punter for Northern Colorado, was left with a deep wound in his kicking leg in the attack last Sept. 11.

Police and prosecutors allege Mitch Cozad, the backup punter at the time, stabbed Mendoza in a bid to get the starter’s job.

Cozad, of Wheatland, Wyo., is on trial on charges of attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault. His attorney, Joseph Gavaldon, has said another student attacked Mendoza.

Questioned by Gavaldon, Mendoza said Cozad ” who lived in a dorm ” once told him “he was thinking about moving out, and I had an extra bedroom” in an off-campus apartment.

Asked if he was considering offering the room to Cozad, Mendoza said, “That’s right.”

Later, Gavaldon asked Mendoza about previous testimony that he could not see who attacked him because only the assailant’s eyes were visible beneath the cinched-up hood of a black sweat shirt.

“It wasn’t Mitchell Cozad, was it?” Gavaldon asked.

“I couldn’t tell you that,” Mendoza replied.

The 22-year-old Mendoza was composed on the stand Thursday, a day after breaking down in sobs as a prosecutor replayed his labored, panting 911 call.

In afternoon testimony, former Evans police detective Angela Quinn said she found two pairs of black shoes, four black shirts and a black sweat shirt with a hood that had white stripes down the sleeves during a Sept. 14 search of Cozad’s room.

In a search of Cozad’s blue Dodge Charger five days later, Quinn testified she found a rubber glove with a middle finger missing in the trunk and a plastic bag with more rubber gloves in a console between the seats.

David Ennor, whose girlfriend lives in Mendoza’s complex, testified Mendoza flagged him down in the parking lot on the night of the attack.

“He said he’d been stabbed and asked if I could help him by chasing down the assailant,” Ennor said. “He pointed in the general direction the assailant had run. As I turned around, I saw a figure in dark clothing sprinting.”

He said he saw a figure in dark clothing sprinting and later saw a dark vehicle peeling out of the parking lot.

Ennor was unable to get a license plate number.

Kyle Oakeson, an employee at Knotty Pine Liquor in Evans, also testified Thursday that he saw a fast-approaching car suddenly whip into a parking space as he stared out the store’s drive-thru window.

Oakeson noticed two people dressed all in black get out, peel off tape from the license plates, get back into the car and speed off.

He said the Wyoming license plate read 8-KIKR, which police later traced to Cozad’s mother. Oakeson called 911 to report what he’d seen, and his 911 call was played for the jury.

Before the jury left for the day, they sent a note to Judge Marcelo Kopcow asking him to ask Quinn whether Mendoza or Oakeson mentioned white stripes down the arm of a black hoodie. Quinn answered: “No.”

Gavaldon has said prosecutors jumped to the conclusion that Cozad attacked Mendoza because Cozad’s car was used.

Instead, Gavaldon has blamed the stabbing on Kevin Aussprung, another Northern Colorado student who told police he was with Cozad the night of the attack.

Gavaldon said in his opening statement that Aussprung, a soccer player, was a “football wannabe” who did not like Mendoza.

Aussprung’s attorney, Bill Crosier, has denied his client was the attacker. Aussprung is expected to testify later in the trial.

Quinn testified Thursday that, according to phone records, Aussprung and Cozad text messaged or called each other at least 50 times between last Sept. 9 and 11.

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