Murder Under the Friday Night Lights is examining the stabbing of Rafael Mendoza, a star punter on the football team of the University of Northern Colorado, who was struck with a knife by team rival Mitch Cozad.
On the night of September 11, 2006, Mendoza left his apartment and was standing in the dimly lit parking lot when he was attacked by an individual clad all in black who stabbed him in his kicking leg with a 5-inch knife.
Mendoza suffered a deep gash in his leg, but he survived the attack and even made a return to the football team.
He could not identify his attacker because they had covered their face with a hood, so only their eyes were visible.
The investigators learned from Cozad’s teammates and a female friend that he was a highly ambitious but deeply frustrated athlete who was angry that he’d been passed over as the team’s punter for Mendoza.
The cops concluded that he wanted to be the star punter, so he had deliberately wounded his victim.
The police arrested Cozad and charged him with first-degree attempted murder.Watch the Latest on our YouTube Channel
Mitch Cozad claimed he was innocent of harming Rafael Mendoza
Cozad insisted he was innocent, and his lawyer argued that another individual from the university must have been the attacker. His counsel pointed out that he had passed a lie detector test; however, lie detector evidence is inadmissible in Colorado.
In the end, the backup punter was convicted of second-degree assault and was acquitted of attempted murder.
Cozad could have faced up to 16 years in prison, but Weld County District Judge Marcelo Kopcow opted for seven years.
Kopcow told Cozad, “Clearly, this was deliberate to hurt him, and you succeeded,” but added, “The goal is to not ruin your life. I would like you to succeed in your life.”
Cozad’s fiancee, Michelle Weydert, wept uncontrollably as her husband-to-be was led away, and his mother, Suzanne Cozad, shouted at prosecutors, “You all know he passed the polygraph; you all know it.”
Rafael Mendoza said he forgave Mitch Cozad for stabbing him
Mendoza told reporters that he thought Cozad had been trying to kill him, but he always knew a conviction on that charge would be difficult. He also claimed to have forgiven his attacker.
Cozad apologized to Mendoza, stating he was very sorry for any pain caused.
Murder Under the Friday Night Lights airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.