NAPOLEON — A jury here found a Toledo man guilty Wednesday afternoon in Henry County Common Pleas Court of two violent offenses involving his estranged wife.
Raymond Cervantes, 46, was declared guilty of attempted murder, a first-degree felony; and felonious assault (a lesser included offense of attempted murder), a second-degree felony.
Visiting Judge David Faulkner of Hardin County — filling in for Henry County Judge John Collier who had withdrawn from the case — ordered a pre-sentence investigation and continued Cervantes’ bond. He continues to be held in the Wood County Justice Center, Bowling Green.
Sentencing was scheduled for 1 p.m. on July 15. He could be sentenced up to 11 to 16 1/2 years on the first-degree felony, according to Henry County Prosecutor Gwen Howe-Gebers.
The jury deliberated about 1 1/2 hours Wednesday before making its finding.
Howe-Gebers told The Crescent-News Wednesday evening that she, the victim and the victim’s family are “very pleased” with the verdict.
The charges — returned by a Henry County grand jury and filed in common pleas court on Aug. 26, 2020 — alleged that on the night of Aug. 16-17 Cervantes struck his estranged wife, Desiray Liner, with a piece of wood and also attempted to strangle her along the Maumee River in Washington Township. (Liner was released from the hospital shortly after the incident.)
The jury began deliberating around mid-afternoon Wednesday after closing arguments by Howe-Gebers and Cervantes’ attorney, Scott Coon of Bowling Green.
During her opening statement Tuesday afternoon, Howe-Gebers told the jury that they would hear a “horrific story” from the alleged victim stemming from events in Wood and Henry counties on Aug. 16-17.
The incident began on Aug. 16 in a barn or garage at the home of Cervantes’ sister in Wood County, according to Howe-Gebers. It was there that Liner — who was estranged from Cervantes at the time amidst what both sides described as a toxic relationship — agreed to meet the defendant.
She testified for approximately 45 minutes Tuesday, explaining that Cervantes wanted to pay her money for damage he had caused to her home and dogs, but then things turned violent. Liner said Cervantes vowed not to let her return home before she was punched, struck in the head with a metal C-clamp and strangled by Cervantes, prompting her to stab him in the leg with a knife.
According to Liner’s testimony, Cervantes forced his way into her car, saying he just wanted to talk to her, and they drove along the Maumee River in the Grand Rapids area. She testified that they continued to a remote location along the Maumee River along Henry County Road 424 where Cervantes assaulted her in the head with a piece of driftwood and strangled her again.
Later, Liner testified, she was able to get Cervantes to calm down some and he agreed they could drive to St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee for treatment, with Liner saying she would not say anything about the violent episode. But after they arrived, Liner testified, she exited the car and ran into the hospital’s emergency room, saying she would inform authorities about what had happened.
Howe-Gebers introduced multiple pictures of Liner’s physical condition recorded at the hospital the night of the incident, including two bruised, swollen eyes and strangulation marks on her neck.
But the defense’s version of events was considerably different.
During his opening statement Tuesday, Coon said the couple went to St. Luke’s Hospital after having concocted a story to keep both defendants out of trouble. Earlier, he had called their relationship, which began in June 2019, “toxic” while Liner described it as “violent and hostile” from the beginning.
And during cross examination, Coon indicated that Liner had been charged with domestic violence. Liner countered that this charge was dismissed while Cervantes’ domestic charge was not.
Coon also claimed that Cervantes and Liner engaged in sexual conduct in the barn at his sister’s residence before things turned violent. But Liner denied this during her testimony.
She told the jury that she has filed for divorce since the incident. Indeed, a pending divorce action was filed on Jan. 12 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, according to the court’s website.
The trial resumed Wednesday morning with Cervantes taking the witness stand and denying that he had struck Liner with a C-clamp or a piece of driftwood.
While the driftwood contained traces of hair, Coon noted in his closing argument Wednesday that no DNA testing was conducted matching this to Liner. He also noted that investigators did not find any blood on the C-clamp.
Coon claimed Liner was injured in the barn while Cervantes was attempting to wrestle the aforementioned knife from her.
Too, he said a CT scan at St. Luke’s Hospital failed to find any evidence of facial fractures and only soft tissue damage to Liner’s head. Coon said this was not consistent with Liner’s claim that she was struck in the head with the large metal C-clamp.
In her closing argument, Howe-Gebers asked the jury to use its “reason and common sense” when assessing what happened, noting that they could see the extent of Liner’s injuries from the photos.
Charges of attempted murder, a first-degree felony; kidnapping, a first-degree felony; two counts of felonious assault, each a second-degree felony; escape, a third-degree felony; tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; and disrupting public services, a fourth-degree felony, remain pending against Cervantes in Wood County Common Pleas Court.
These are scheduled for a pretrial hearing on July 20 and a jury trial on Sept. 7, according to court records. All are related to the Aug. 16 incident.
According to Lucas County Common Pleas Court records, Cervantes was convicted of attempted kidnapping, a third-degree felony in 2002 and was sentenced to thee years in prison before being convicted in 2010 of non-support of dependents, a fifth-degree felony, and sentenced to 11 months.
Two counts of prohibition against companion animals, each a fifth-degree felony; and one count of domestic violence, a first-degree misdemeanor — filed in June 2020 — remain pending against him in the same court.