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Trial in beating of woman set to begin

Girlfriend of defendant is a key witness for the prosecution.

MERCED - The jury trial of a man accused of beating a 56-year-old Atwater woman during a brutal home invasion is scheduled to begin today in Merced County Superior Court.

Prosecutors say Joey Edward Cardoza, 34, committed the robbery with girlfriend Kimberly Suzanne Grace, 31, during the early morning hours of April 27 at a residence in the 2300 block of Fay Drive.

The case outraged neighbors in the Bellevue Road and North Winton Way area, prompting them to launch a Neighborhood Watch group.

Deputy District Attorney Walter Wall said one of the prosecution’s key witnesses in the case is Grace, who has agreed to testify against Cardoza during the trial. In exchange for her testimony, Grace pleaded no contest to one count of first-degree burglary.

At the conclusion of Cardoza’s trial, Grace is scheduled to be sentenced to one year in jail, followed by one year in a drug treatment facility and three years on probation. Wall said the prosecution made the agreement with Grace because she played a minor role in the crime and has cooperated with Atwater police.

Cardoza has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include home invasion robbery, first-degree burglary and assault. He’s being defended by attorney Jeffrey Tenenbaum.

Tenenbaum said his client denies being at the scene, saying Grace is testifying only to save her own skin. “It wasn’t him,” Tenenbaum said. “She’s turning on him to save herself.”

A detective testified earlier this year that the victim told him she awoke at 3 a.m. to find the defendants inside her home. When the pair realized she was awake, Cardoza allegedly ordered her to the ground, pulled her hair and punched her in the face. Police said Cardoza knocked out one of the victim’s teeth during the attack and injured her left eye.

During a preliminary hearing, police testified that Cardoza was the ex-boyfriend of the victim’s daughter. He previously had been convicted of burglarizing the same woman in 2007 and spent three years in prison. Prosecutors believe the recent home invasion was revenge for the 2007 conviction.

Police said the robbers took off in the victim’s Buick. Atwater police detectives later found the car in a Turlock shopping center parking lot and obtained surveillance footage of what police say is Cardoza leaving the car.

Detectives also said they obtained Grace’s image from an ATM surveillance camera. If convicted, Cardoza faces up to 20 years in prison.

Cardoza remains at the Merced County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

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