The fate of a man suspected of raping and killing his former girlfriend at a Durango motel in June 2007 is again in the hands of a jury.
Harold Nakai, 43, is charged with criminally negligent homicide and sexually assaulting a victim who was physically helpless.
Nakai was arrested June 7, 2007, after he called 911 to report his girlfriend, Nicole Leigh Redhorse, 34, was dead inside Room 525 at the Spanish Trails Inn & Suites, 3141 Main Ave.
During closing arguments at his re-trial, prosecutors reiterated that Nakai had sexual intercourse with Redhorse while she was too intoxicated to consent. His actions, they said, aggravated injuries from a sexual assault that occurred earlier in the evening, which caused excessive bleeding and ultimately led to her death. He did nothing save her life.
Defense lawyers countered that Nakai didn’t cause the initial injuries, and he had no reasonable way of knowing she had been so severely injured in a previous sexual assault. The woman kissed him, hugged him and whispered “sweet nothings” into his ear, which was a clear indication of her willingness to have sex, said public defender Kenneth Pace.
Nakai thought the woman was bleeding profusely as a result of a miscarriage, Pace said. He didn’t call police because he is Native American, he was intoxicated, and he feared being arrested for something, Pace said.
He asked jurors to not let the “immense tragedy” of the case get in the way of Nakai’s innocence. He placed blame on two other men – Derrick Nelson Begaye and Carlton Lee Yazzie, who have been convicted of sexual assault and criminally negligent homicide stemming from Redhorse’s death.
He also faulted prosecutors for misdirecting jurors and giving “half truths.”
The case was prosecuted by Dan Hotsenpiller, with the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, and Janet Drake, senior assistant attorney general for Colorado.
In his closing arguments, Hotsenpiller described Redhorse as a gifted person who graduated from Dartmouth College, had a good family and could have made anything out of her life.
“She had a disease – in her case a wicked disease – a severe addiction to alcohol, and she couldn’t overcome that, and it made her vulnerable,” he said.
Yazzie, Begaye and Nakai preyed on her vulnerabilities, he said. But this case is not about the role Yazzie and Begaye played; rather, it is about Nakai’s actions and his decision to have sex with Redhorse when she was physically incapable of consenting and failing to perceive a substantial risk of death when she started bleeding profusely.
The two-week trial started June 12 in 6th Judicial District Court. A 12-person jury began deliberating shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday.