...those kinds of people belong in jail.

root - Posted on 01 January 2000

Homeless suspect wrongly accused by law enforcement and hostile residents

by Rhonda Parker

EUREKA -- An innocent man has been charged with slashing another man's throat during a brawl last week on Arcata Plaza, a defense attorney told Judge Marilyn Miles on Thursday.

Deputy Public Defender Roger Parshall said the man who really committed the stabbing has confessed repeatedly, but law enforcement has chosen to ignore him and pursue charges against Joseph Nurkiewicz. Parshall, arguing during a bail hearing Thursday afternoon, said the district attorney must at some point concede ''that in all likelihood they have charged the wrong man.''

''I don't think Mr. Parshall's going to get that concession,'' Deputy District Attorney Worth Dikeman responded. ''Mr. Nurkiewicz allegedly sneaked behind a person and tried to slit his throat. We think those kinds of people belong in jail.''

The 21-year-old Nurkiewicz is accused of stabbing 25-year-old Jed Vandenplas during the Aug. 25 fight between Plaza transients and those who resent them.Vandenplas was treated and released for his injuries.

Nurkiewicz supposedly is one of the transient crowd, although Parshall said Thursday he has lived in Arcata for three years.

Lolita Bijarro, Nurkiewicz's fiancee, said it was a friend of theirs who committed the stabbing. She said the man was trying to help Nurkiewicz, who was fighting off a half-dozen attackers.

''If (the man) did not do that, my old man would not be here right now,'' the 20-year-old Bijarro said outside the courtroom after the hearing. She said the actual stabber has made several statements to law enforcement.

Tension has been simmering for some time between some local residents and the crowd of transients who hang out on the Plaza. Police say the fracas last week started because of a fight a few days earlier between Bijarro and another woman.

Bijarro admits she ''had a conflict'' with a woman. But she said the problems were actually caused by a man who had been continually insulting ''the hippies,'' advising them to get jobs, take baths and get out of town.

She said she suggested to the man that he is upset because the hippies are happy and carefree.

''Are you jealous because people give me money for beer and you have to work for it?'' Bijarro said she asked the man.

During the fight in which Nurkiewicz allegedly stabbed Vandenplas, Nurkiewicz's friend Randolph Tolley reportedly bashed someone over the head with a heavy flashlight. That person also was not seriously hurt.

Both Nurkiewicz and Tolley are charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Tolley's attorney William Cater told Judge Miles that Tolley, 33, has lived in the county about two months and works as a jeweler. He said Tolley may have used his flashlight to defend a friend who was being attacked.

Judge Miles, after listening to lawyers' comments, refused to release the men or reduce their $50,000 bail.

Parshall argued the actual stabber has confessed to law enforcement. And in the victim's statement, he said, ''includes transparent lies.''

''They've got the wrong guy,'' Parshall said outside the courtroom.

Dikeman said charges were filed against the man believed responsible. He said the issue should be sorted out during the preliminary hearing. It is set for later this month.

''The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to weed out unjustified charges,'' Dikeman said. ''If Mr. Parshall is correct, I'm sure the judge will agree with him. If he is incorrect, I suspect the defendant will be held to answer.''


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