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Day of terror described by former top Fresno County official

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A day of terror was laid out in excruciating detail by Fresno County's former director of environmental health.

Tim Casagrande took the stand in the trial against the man accused of robbing and kidnapping him last year.

Casagrande walked into court Thursday to tell the story of a survivor. Four months ago, he wasn't so sure he'd have the chance.

We're not allowed to show you his testimony, but he told the jury he first saw a robber in his house in a hallway. The man had a gun, and hit Casagrande within a few seconds.

"He was screaming at me, and I was screaming back not to kill me," Casagrande said. "Don't kill me. Don't kill me. Don't shoot."

His testimony is now the main ingredient in the prosecutor's recipe to put Renard Brooks in prison.

"Listening to the victim, that's important in this case too, is having the victim testify and talk about how frightened he was, the dangerous situation he was in, the concern for his life and pleading not to be killed," said ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi.

Casagrande says he barely saw the suspect -- he only saw the whites of the man's eyes as he stared down the barrel of a gun.

The guy used Casagrande's clothing to tie him up and blindfold him, then ransacked the house, especially a closet where he found jewelry and three guns.

Casagrande never tried to get free, not wanting to risk angering the gunman.

"I didn't know what to do other than do what he said," Casagrande testified. "He had a gun to my head. I just tried to listen to what he said so I didn't make a mistake."

The robber took him to a gas station, an ATM -- where this photo was taken -- and a couple other stops. Casagrande thought any of those stops could be his last.

"I started to pray a little bit and think about what my last thought was going to be," he said.

Brooks was wearing some of Casagrande's jewelry when police found him a week later.

The ATM photo and fingerprints also tied him to the crime, but he chose to take the case to trial, despite what Capozzi described as overwhelming odds.

"Defendants, those who have been through the system, are kind of hoping lightning will strike, that maybe there's one juror who will think he's not guilty," said Capozzi.

Brooks faces life in prison if he's convicted.

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Tags:
kidnapping, crimetracker, fresno, fresno county, local, corin hoggard
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