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Man sent to prison for bicyclist’s death

Michelle “Shelli” Weissman was the victim of “pure fate” when a man leaned out a minivan window, hitting and killing the 56-year-old as she rode her bike last year in east Las Vegas, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

“This could have been anyone in our community, given what she was doing that day,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Michelle Fleck said during a sentencing hearing for Rodrigo Cruz, who was driving the minivan when Weissman was struck.

Cruz, 24, pleaded guilty in September to reckless driving and failing to stop at the scene of the Oct. 25, 2020, crash. District Judge Jacqueline Bluth on Tuesday sentenced him to 10 to 26 years in prison.

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.

Cruz was arrested after he fled.

Weissman’s husband, Lonny Weissman, told Bluth on Tuesday that it was “completely atrocious” that Cruz was not convicted of murder. Cruz’s initial charges included a murder count, court records show.

“This is a clear cut case, to where you have pure evil ended up killing pure goodness,” Lonny Weissman told the judge.

Elena Presilla, who attended Tuesday’s hearing wearing a purple shirt reading “Justice for Michelle,” said her friend was “the most kind person you’d ever meet.”

“She loved her family so much, and she would do anything for her family,” Presilla said after the hearing.

Cruz, who appeared during the hearing over a video call from the Clark County Detention Center, read a letter containing his apologies.

“There’s nothing I can say or do that will change the situation, but I can say that I have taken full responsibility for my actions,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s defense attorney, Craig Hendricks, told the judge that the two men were taking part in “some sort of dumb, childish prank” the morning Michelle Weissman was killed. Before Weissman was struck, the van nearly hit a couple on a walk, according to Cruz’s arrest report.

Hendricks said he did not believe Cruz understood that his passenger leaning out the window was attempting to hit the bicyclist.

“I don’t want him to be punished for what Mr. Medina did also,” Hendricks said.

Fleck said Cruz showed a “clear disregard for others” while the two men “terrorized” Weissman and the couple walking on Hollywood Boulevard.

Bluth said she was struck by the random nature of Weissman’s death.

“It’s just such a devastatingly sad, and pointless, and senseless act that has ramifications of the most greatest nature,” she said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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