Punter once considered sharing apartment with accused attacker

Updated: August 2, 2007, 9:41 PM ET
Associated Press

GREELEY, Colo. -- 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 his 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 during a search of Cozad's room Sept. 14 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 search of Cozad's Dodge Charger on Sept. 19, Quinn testified that in the trunk she found a rubber glove with a middle finger missing, and in a console are between the seats she found a plastic bag with more rubber gloves.

David Ennor, whose girlfriend lives in the complex, also testified that he drove his pickup truck into the parking the night of the attack and was flagged down by Mendoza. Ennor said he saw a figure in dark clothing sprinting and that he saw a dark vehicle peeling out of the parking lot.

Ennor tried to catch up to the vehicle to get a license plate number, but lost sight of it.

"After looking around and not seeing anything, I headed back to apartment," he said.

Kyle Oakeson, an employee at Knotty Pine Liquor, 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 license plate was from Wyoming and read 8-KIKR, which later was 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 had either text messaged or called each other at least 50 times between Sept. 9 and 11.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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