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Woman nicknamed 'Hitler' pleads in stabbing at Rainbow Family Gathering

Published: Monday, Aug. 11 2014 2:45 p.m. MDT

HEBER CITY — A New Mexico woman who is known by the pseudonym "Hitler" has entered a no-contest plea in connection with the stabbing of a Utah man at this summer's Rainbow Family Gathering.

Leilani Novak-Garcia, 32, pleaded no contest last week to aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, according to 4th District Court records. In exchange for her plea, prosecutor Mckay King agreed to ask a judge to dismiss one count of attempted murder, a second-degree felony.

"Aggravated assault is a one-step reduction from the attempted murder charge," King said.

On June 23, Forest Service rangers contacted Wasatch County sheriff's deputies about "a disturbance" at the Rainbow Family site in the Uinta National Forest about 15 miles east of Heber City. Rangers told deputies they heard someone screaming threats to kill another person.

Investigators determined that three people had approached Novak-Garcia's vehicle at the Rainbow Family site about 1:30 a.m. and asked her to stop repeatedly honking the vehicle's horn. Witnesses said she had been honking the horn for about 30 minutes.

When Novak-Garcia refused to stop, one member of the trio — 45-year-old Neil Sparling of Salt Lake City — tried to disable the horn, charging documents state.

Investigators said Novak-Garcia responded by striking one person with a tire iron. She then stabbed Sparling in the head and shoulder with a knife, the charges state.

Sparling was taken to a Wasatch Front hospital for treatment. The person who was struck with the tire iron refused to cooperate with the investigation, King said. A third person also declined to help investigators, court records show.

"He believed that Leilani's conduct on the night in question was out of character for her and was probably the result of 'taking some bad drugs,'" sheriff's detectives wrote in a document that sought a material witness warrant for the man. That warrant was never issued.

The U.S. Forest Service estimated that about 8,000 people attended this year's Rainbow Family of Living Light gathering. The counterculture group gathers in a different national forest each summer to pray for world peace, according to its unofficial website.

Novak-Garcia, who remains in the Wasatch County Jail, is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 24. She faces up to five years in prison.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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