LAS VEGAS (CNN) — The lawyer for the 19-year-old man accused of killing a Las Vegas woman — allegedly after a road rage incident — says his client feared for his life.
Erich Milton Nowsch made his first court appearance Monday, a brief initial hearing inside a packed Clark County courtroom in which he did not enter a plea.
His lawyer, Conrad Claus, says a self-defense argument is a likely defense in this case. He questions the version of events given by police and the victim’s family and claims police interviewed Nowsch while he was high on marijuana.
Nowsch is charged with murder, attempted murder, assault and firing a gun from a car in the February 12 death of Tammy Meyers, 44. Police say Nowsch shot Meyers in front of her home after a confrontation while driving.
According to police, the incident began when Meyers was giving her daughter a driving lesson at a school parking lot when “a silver four door car sped up behind them and pulled along the driver’s side of the car.” After the daughter honked the horn, the other car raced ahead and blocked their path, and a man got out of the car threatening them.
Meyers later went looking for the car with her 22-year-old son, who was armed with a 9 mm pistol, according to police. After finding the car, they began following it. The driver stopped, and the passenger began firing at the Meyerses, according to police. Meyers drove home, but the other car followed and the occupant opened fire on them in front of their house, according to police.
Meyers was struck in the head and died two days later.
Claus said he questions whether the alleged road rage incident between Meyers and Nowsch occurred and has doubts about the family’s account of what happened.
He said accounts of Nowsch’s reported discussions of the shootings with friends don’t appear to be consistent with the road rage claim. He also questioned the family’s initial description of the shooting suspect. Meyers’ daughter described the driver who threatened them as being 6 feet tall. Nowsch is much shorter.
“There are serious inconsistencies and problems with their story and I have serious concerns,” Claus told CNN.
A preliminary hearing was set for March 10, during which investigators will reveal more of the evidence and a judge will determine whether the case should go forward.
However, the district attorney has issued a notice that his office may go to a grand jury instead of a preliminary hearing. The defense says such a move would indicate something weak about the prosecutors’ case.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told reporters after the hearing that prosecutors are sure of their case against Nowsch.
“It is not a straightforward case,” he said. “It is not a garden variety, run-of-the-mill case. We all know there are certain nuances to this case. But at the end of the day, this young man is charged with a senseless, stupid act of murder and we intend to prove it in court.”
Meyer’s husband, Robert Meyers, also attended the hearing.
“I’ll be here every court date,” he told reporters.
Sara Weisfeldt reported from Las Vegas. Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Sara Sidner and Amanda Watts also contributed to this report.