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Autopsy: Bike path victim was strangled and beaten
Oct 31, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk and Eric Blom, Staff Writers
Prosecutors had no comment Thursday about an autopsy report showing David Ronald Moss Jr., 25, died of manual strangulation as well as blunt-force head injuries.
The report says Moss was the victim of a homicide. He was attacked Sept. 3 on the Rails-to-Trails pathway north of Riverton along with Aleeah Crispin, who was beaten unconscious during the incident.
Crispin was airlifted to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper for treatment and was in a coma last month. She returned home last week and has made "miraculous" improvements, according to officials.
Two teenaged boys --Â John Potter, 15, and Santana Mendoza, 16, both of Riverton --Â have pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder in connection with the assault.
Prosecutors have not said that either boy mentioned strangling Moss.
In an interview with Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation special agent Andy Hanson, Mendoza said he only used kicks in the attack and denied using any weapons himself.
The boy also did not say his accomplice strangled either victim, according to Hanson.
"Mendoza did not admit Potter did more than use a bat on Moss and kicked Crispin," Hanson said.
Mendoza said he blacked out for part of the attack and cannot remember all of it, the special agent said.
Mendoza's attorney, Sky Phifer, said no evidence suggests the boy strangled Moss.
Potter's lawyer, Kerri Johnson, said there was not enough evidence to charge her client, either.
"The only evidence Mr. Potter was involved in this was from Mr. Mendoza, and Mr. Mendoza's credibility should be in question," she said in September.
Prosecutors have not indicated Potter has said he was involved in the assault.
Coroner Ed McAuslan said Moss's autopsy does not indicate when the manual strangulation may have taken place.
"We don't have a specific timeframe ... from the pathology," he said. "I don't know that there is anything that would be able to differentiate time factors."
Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett wouldn't comment when asked whether prosecutors believe the defendants strangled Moss. Fremont County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Bill Braddock on Thursday said he doesn't think anyone else participated in the incident.
"We're aware that the coroner advised it was strangulation, but we don't have anything else to go on," Braddock said. "Personally I don't feel there was anybody else involved other than these two men we have charged."
The cases against Mendoza and Potter have been joined, and the boys are scheduled for trial Jan. 13. The charges against them are felonies punishable by imprisonment for 20 years or life. Both teens are being tried as adults.
In his autopsy, Moss had a blood-alcohol content of .072. He also tested positive for cannabinoids, or marijuana. He had no property in his possession.
Mendoza has shared several details about the incident during interviews with investigators.
The boy said he was jogging on the pathway when he saw Potter, who pointed out Moss and Crispin sitting nearby. Potter reportedly said Moss and Crispin had been "talking poorly" about the boys' families.
"Because of that, they wanted to beat (Moss and Crispin) up and assault them," Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation special agent Andy Hanson said in court.
Mendoza reportedly watched the two victims while Potter retrieved a metal baseball bat and a set of brass knuckles. The boys concealed the weapons as they initiated a conversation with Moss and Crispin. Without warning, Potter kicked Moss in the face and head, Hanson said. When Crispin tried to stand up, Potter kicked her in the face as well. Mendoza remembers stomping twice on Moss's head and recalls Potter swinging the bat downward onto the man's face. Mendoza kicked Crispin, too. He said Moss was breathing after the assault.