LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 19-year-old Las Vegas man pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder and other charges in the shooting death of a mother of four in a neighborhood gunbattle.
Erich Milton Nowsch Jr. stood in shackles — a slight 5-foot-3 and 120 pounds, flanked by his lawyers — and spoke only to enter his pleas and say he understood the charges that also include attempted murder and firing a weapon from a vehicle.
District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who was in the audience, has said a decision will be made soon about whether to seek the death penalty in the Feb. 12 shooting of 44-year-old Tammy Meyers. She died at a hospital on Valentine's Day.
Meyers' husband, Robert Meyers, and Nowsch's mother, Kathleen Nowsch, watched the brief arraignment but declined comment outside court.
Clark County District Court Judge Michael Villani set trial for May 26. But defense attorney Augustus Claus said after the hearing that a trial would likely be delayed if prosecutors seek capital punishment.
Other possible sentences could be 20 to 50 years in prison or life without parole if Nowsch is convicted.
"This case is requiring a lot more investigative work than usual," Claus said. "It's complicated."
The case initially was characterized as road rage but took dramatic turns following the revelation that Tammy Meyers knew Nowsch from encounters at a park, and that Meyers' adult son, Brandon Meyers, was with her and fired his registered 9 mm handgun three times during the shootout.
Police said Tammy Meyers was killed by one of as many as 22 shots fired from a .45-caliber handgun that Nowsch later showed to friends. Investigators said evidence also showed that Nowsch first fired shots at the Meyers' green Buick Park Avenue sedan several blocks from the Meyers home.
Nowsch told his friends he thought people in a green car with tinted windows driving slowly in a school parking lot near where he was walking alone late at night were after him, but he got them first, according to a police report.
Police are still seeking a getaway driver who drove a silver Audi that Nowsch said he summoned when he felt threatened.
Police haven't explained whether that car was the same silver sedan with an angry driver that Tammy Meyers and her daughter, Kristal, encountered earlier — during what was described as a late-night driving lesson in a school parking lot.
Claus and his brother and co-counsel, Conrad Claus, have said they believe they'll be able to show that Nowsch and Meyers knew each other better than police have described.
They're also checking records showing that Nowsch suffered a fractured skull as a 7-week-old infant at the hands of his father, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor child abuse charge, and that his father committed suicide when the boy was 15.