Two Nevada men spared death for murder of wife and father on CourtTV.com
By Matt Pordum
LAS VEGAS â€” A Las Vegas jury sentenced John Chartier and David Wilcox to life in prison without parole Tuesday for murdering Chartier’s ex-wife and her father at their home on Aug. 18, 2004.
Prosecutors said Chartier asked Wilcox to kill Rachel Bernat and her father, Carlos Aragon, because he was angry over a “nasty divorce and bitter custody battle” involving the couple’s then-4-year-old son, Ezekiel.
The custody battle ended with a family court judge granting an order allowing Bernat and Ezekiel to move to New Mexico. The move was scheduled to happen two days after the police found Bernat stabbed to death.
Chartier, a former treasurer of the Clark County Republican Party, was also allegedly angry that Bernat had filed a complaint seeking to have his accounting license revoked because he was not making child support payments.
Prosecutors successfully convinced jurors that David Wilcox, a former Marine who earned a Purple Heart while serving in Beirut in the 1980s, carried out the murders at Chartier’s written request.
In a letter, Chartier instructed Wilcox to “take out Mom and Grandpa,” and to “burn this [letter] once you have committed it to memory.”
Both Chartier and Wilcox broke their silence about the killings Monday.
Chartier offered his condolences to Bernat and Aragon’s family members, then told the jury, “Killing me is not going to bring them back. It will only add to the tragedy for three innocent children.”
“I ask you to please not punish my three children for the convictions of their dad,” Chartier said. “I would ask you to sentence me to life with the possibility of parole so I can talk to my children.”
Chartier also thanked prosecutor Robert Daskas for deciding not to call Ezekiel to testify during the trial.
Wilcox turned to the family members in court and said softly, Â ”I’m very sorry for the bad decisions and the actions that I’ve taken. I apologize to my family for putting them through this. I’d like to think I can still help people in prison, but I don’t know.”
Earlier Monday,Â Wilcox’s older sister, Ruby Lewis, told jurors about her brother’s traumatic experiences in Beirut.
After joining the Marines, her brother was “100 percent a Marine who was a proud, patriotic soldier who thought the government was perfect and the president was wonderful.”
After the bombing of the Beirut barracks, however, Lewis said her brother “was anxious and withdrawn” as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lewis said although the jury has convicted Wilcox of horrible crimes, he’s still “intelligent and caring.”
Bernat’s older sister, Pamela O’Connell, told jurors that the murders of her sister and father created “a hole in our lives.”
“I can’t explain what it’s like to be with the family and not have them all here,” O’Connell said. “I miss them a lot and I don’t think I’ll ever forget how they died.”
O’Connell said Bernat’s two daughters, Elizabeth and Emily, have deteriorated emotionally since the murders.
Elizabeth Bernat was once “a bright and happy girl,” but since the murders, “she’s angry, her grades have slipped and she tried to kill herself,” O’Connell said.
Carlos Matthew Aragon said that, since the murder of his father and sister, he and all of his siblings live in fear and lock their doors and windows.
Chartier’s daughter Christy, who recently graduated from high school, asked jurors to spare her father’s life, saying that although “this has been a traumatic and extremely sad time, it’s given us a chance to connect like we never had before.”
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