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Sentencing in Las Vegas cyclist’s death delayed

Updated November 19, 2021 - 5:17 am

Relatives of a woman who died when she was intentionally knocked off her bicycle expressed anger Thursday after a man involved in the crash did not show up to his sentencing hearing.

Rodrigo Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in September to reckless driving and failing to stop at the scene of the Oct. 25, 2020, crash that killed Michelle “Shelli” Weissman, 56.

“I think all of us are ready to end up having this particular event put past us and finally get the proper justice for my wife, who was flat-out murdered,” Lonny Weissman said outside the courtroom.

It was not immediately clear why Cruz, who is imprisoned in an unrelated case, was not transported to the Clark County Detention Center, which has a video feed patched into Senior District Judge Joseph Bonaventure’s courtroom.

The judge, the prosecutor and Cruz’s attorney could not explain his absence to Weissman’s relatives but noted that it was likely due to an administrative error.

“I have to apologize to all the people that came here expecting this to be resolved,” the judge said. “Things like that happen.”

Weissman’s relatives, who sat in court with anxious facial expressions while they awaited Cruz’s case to be called, were exasperated.

The prosecutor approached the family to ask what would be a “good day” for them to return to court.

A good day, Lonny Weissman told her, would be when Cruz shows up.

The hearing was rescheduled for Dec. 7.

The morning of her death, Weissman was pedaling near Hollywood Boulevard and Sahara Avenue when Cruz’s minivan approached from behind and veered toward her in the bike lane. The passenger, Giovanni Medina Barajas, 20, reached out to knock her down. The impact made him fall out the window, and both died at the scene.

Police said Cruz and Barajas had attempted to do the same to a pair of pedestrians walking nearby.

Cruz, who drove off, was soon tracked by homicide detectives to his home a few miles away.

Dealing with loss

When they woke up Thursday, Weissman’s relatives had to prepare mentally to see Cruz and to envision the “scenarios” that might play out during sentencing, Lonny Weissman said.

Weissman described waiting in the courtroom with anxiety and sweaty palms. Asked if he would like to hear Cruz speak before he is sentenced, Weissman said that it would mean “absolutely nothing to me because his actions are already spoken.”

Weissman said he plans to testify at the next hearing.

The Weissmans met in Las Vegas in 2005 and married the following year, said Weissman, who described his late wife as a delightful woman who was caring and giving.

She loved people, she was passionate about life, and she had just picked up cycling, Weissman said.

He still reads their text messages, the last of which he received at 7:09 a.m. that fateful day. It reads: “Even though it’s windy, I’m going out for a ride.”

Lonny Weissman knew she was pedaling to the Wetlands Park, a two-hour trail she enjoyed.

When she did not return home, he initially though she might have encountered old co-workers who also frequented the trail. Maybe they talked and lost track of time, he thought.

Then another hour went by with no response to his texts or calls.

So sure that he would find her at the trail — maybe suffering from a medical emergency — that he put his bike in his pickup truck. How­ever, less than 2 miles from their home, he encountered police tape on the path his wife would have taken to the trail.

Police on scene described to Weissman what the crash victim was wearing. He knew.

She did everything right, Weissman said. She wore a helmet, rode in a bike lane and flowed with traffic.

The last people to see Weissman alive — the two pedestrians who narrowly avoided being hit by the people in the van before Weissman was struck — recalled her wishing them a “good morning.”

“That was her,” Lonny Weissman said.

At home, things are “quite different” without Shelli, he said. “All I have is just pictures and memories of her. That’s it.”

Asked what closure means to him, Weissman said “justice,” adding that “obviously, she no longer has her life, whereas Rodrigo Cruz still has his. So, I’m not sure (about) the fairness in that.”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @rickytwrites.

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