Teammate: Punter charged with stabbing teammate was ‘pouty’ about not getting starting job
AP Sports Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) ” A backup punter charged with trying to kill the starter clearly wanted the starting job and was “pouty” when he didn’t get it, a former teammate testified Wednesday.
Mitch Cozad, charged with attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault, also asked if he would get the job if the starter were hurt, said David Dyches, a former place-kicker at Northern Colorado.
Cozad, of Wheatland, Wyo., is accused in the Sept. 11 stabbing of Rafael Mendoza. If convicted, Cozad could face up to 48 years in prison.
In his opening statement on Tuesday, defense attorney Joseph “Andy” Gavaldon blamed the stabbing on another Northern Colorado student, Kevin Aussprung, who told police he was with Cozad that night but did not participate in the attack.
Aussprung has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime. Aussprung was not in court Tuesday and he did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment. He was expected to testify later in the trial.
Gavaldon said Aussprung, a soccer player, was a “football wannabe” who did not like Mendoza.
He said prosecutors jumped to the conclusion that Cozad attacked Mendoza because Cozad’s car was used.
In his opening statement, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck portrayed Cozad as a jealous teammate who wasn’t as good as Mendoza.
“He could not accept the fact he was inferior, and he devised a plan to do off the field what he couldn’t do on the field,” Buck said.
Buck said Cozad was driven to meet his mother’s expectations and wanted to be “a big man on campus.”
Buck also noted that Aussprung had had back surgery five months before the attack.
Mendoza was stabbed in a dimly lit parking lot outside his apartment in Evans, a small town adjacent to Greeley. He suffered a 3- to 5-inch wound in his kicking leg but recovered enough to return to the team later in the season.
He told detectives his attacker first tried to stab him in the chest.
Aussprung, who lived in the same dorm as Cozad, testified at a hearing in January that Cozad had offered him $100 to take care of his car while Cozad handled “some business.”
Aussprung testified that 15 to 20 minutes after they arrived at the parking lot at Mendoza’s apartment, Cozad ran back to the car and said they had to leave. In a separate affidavit, Aussprung has said Cozad placed what appeared to be a knife into a plastic bag after returning to the car.
Two workers at a liquor store near where the incident took place told investigators they saw two people dressed in black drive up, get out of the car and peel tape off a Wyoming license plate reading 8-KIKR.
The plate was traced to Cozad’s mother.
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