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Beating victim’s mother points authorities to suspect nearly 22 years after attack

Nearly 22 years after two men viciously beat her son, Peggy Compehos found justice.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli said Wednesday one of the men involved in the attack, Sergio Garcia, recently was arrested on a bench warrant in Texas and was on his way back to Las Vegas for sentencing in the decades-old case.

Lawrence Compehos Jr. became a quadriplegic after the brutal 1992 beating and died five years ago.

But even her son’s death, which was ruled a homicide, couldn’t dissuade Peggy Compehos from her crusade on his behalf.

“We would not have started looking for him if it wasn’t for her. There’s no way,” Lalli said.

The case began on July 6, 1992.

Lawrence Compehos, a 23-year-old waiter from Hawaii known as “Lo,” was working that morning at Anthony’s Club &Casino, then located at 377 E. Flamingo Road, when he noticed two male patrons hassling a female employee.

He intervened, and that made the men angry.

Lawrence Compehos told police he tried to avoid a fight, but the pair jumped him anyway.

In an instant, the young waiter had become a quadriplegic.

Although he had feeling in his entire body, he could not move his legs, and he had only partial use of one arm.

After the beating, officers arrested Rosendo Carrizales Garcia, 22, and his 29-year-old brother, Sergio. Police described the men as registered aliens from Monterrey, Mexico.

The brothers struck a deal with prosecutors to reduce a charge of battery with substantial bodily harm to attempted battery in exchange for guilty pleas.

That meant the maximum possible sentence for each man dropped from 10 years to five years.

Lawrence Compehos showed up to speak at their sentencing hearing in May 1993, when he saw the brothers for the first time since the attack.

But then-District Judge Gerard Bongiovanni agreed to postpone the hearing for nine days at the request of the defendants’ attorneys, and when the new date arrived, the brothers were nowhere to be found. The judge then issued no-bail bench warrants for their arrests.

In the years that followed, Lawrence Compehos and his family lived in fear that the Garcia brothers would find him and do him further harm. They also lamented the lack of justice in the case, although Lawrence Compehos said he tried not to dwell on it.

“I try to be happy all the time,” he told the Review-Journal in 1999.

At the time, the Compehos family recently had learned that Rosendo Garcia had been arrested in November 1995, just two months after the Review-Journal had published one of its stories on the case.

The family also had learned that he was sentenced in February 1996 to five years in prison for his crime against Lawrence Compehos and that he was paroled in April 1998 — all without the victim’s knowledge or input.

Shortly after Rosendo Garcia’s release from prison, he was deported to Mexico.

Lawrence Compehos died on Dec. 21, 2008, at University Medical Center. He was 39.

Peggy Compehos said she recently paid $1 for temporary use of an Internet search service and used it to look for Sergio Garcia.

When she found what she believed to be an address for him in San Antonio, she called Lalli and told him her story.

Lalli contacted the Criminal Apprehension Team, a group of local and federal officers in Southern Nevada that helps arrest suspects in serious crimes. He said the team in turn contacted Texas authorities who succeeded in finding the defendant.

Peggy Compehos said Lalli called her on Jan. 28 to tell her the news.

On Wednesday, Lalli told the Review-Journal that Sergio Garcia had waived extradition and was on his way back to Las Vegas.

Although Lawrence Compehos’ death was ruled a homicide, Lalli said Nevada law at the time of the beating blocked murder prosecutions for cases in which the victim died more than a year after an attack. The attempted battery case has been assigned to District Judge Kathleen Delaney, but no sentencing date has been set.

Peggy Compehos has no intention of missing this hearing, though she knows the defendant may not get the penalty she thinks he deserves.

“At this point in time, I’m just happy that Sergio Garcia knows the family hasn’t forgotten,” she said. “We’re still waiting for justice for Lawrence.”

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @CarriGeer on Twitter.

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