Prosecutors say a U.S. Marine veteran accused of stabbing a construction worker to death at an Oceanside job site in 2017 "missed the thrill" of killing and went out that night looking for a life to take.
Former combat instructor and one-time Marine Mikhail Schmidt is accused of killing 37-year-old, Jacob Bravo on March 9, 2017. He appeared in court Wednesday for the first day of his trial.
Schmidt, 33, showed no reaction as prosecutors played a recording of a chilling 911 call made by Bravo's co-worker after he discovered him dead in their on-site trailer.
Prosecutors say Schmidt stabbed Bravo in the ear and kidney. The claim he got drunk the night before, got a hold of a knife, and went out looking for someone to kill because he needed to "taste blood" again.
Schmidt and Bravo did not know each other, according to prosecutors.
Schmidt served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq six times.
Schmidt left the Marine Corps in August 2013 as a Staff Sergeant, E-6, according to a USMC spokesperson. His last assignment was as a Marine Combat Instructor with the Infantry Training Battalion-West at Camp Pendleton.
Schmidt's defense attorney Brad Patton said he has struggled with PTSD, depression, alcohol abuse and psychosis as a result of "horrific circumstances" while on combat missions.
"The evidence in this case is going to clearly show that there was no motive, no trigger, no basis for the actions that in fact occurred," his attorney said.
The court heard from six witnesses Wednesday, including detectives and crime scene investigators with the Oceanside Police Department. Patton did not cross-examine any of them.
At the time of the alleged killing, Schmidt worked at a fitness supply store in Oceanside called Endurance House. It was while at work the day of the alleged killing that Schmidt allegedly confessed to the crime to his supervisor. He also claimed to be working for a secret government agency protecting the country from terrorism.
If convicted Schmidt faces 25 years to life in prison.
Endurance House owner Matthew Houston testified in 2017 he hired Schmidt in January 2016 and promoted him to a General Manager in June of the same year. He was aware of Schmidt's military background.
Houston testified he noticed "erratic behavior" from Schmidt on March 9, 2017 when he came to work. He said Schmidt became agitated during a phone call and threw his phone, so he confronted him.
He said Schmidt asked if he knew about the incident on the construction site and admitted that "it was him."
"[Schmidt] said he worked for an agency called 'Orange' and that when that agency called, he did what they said and that it was above my understanding," Houston said.
He added that Schmidt appeared drunk, so he convinced Schmidt to take a walk with him. Before they left, Houston went into the store's restroom, called his wife and told her to call the police.
Houston and Schmidt took a walk along The Strand and then walked to a coffee shop near the crime scene before heading back to the beach.
During their walk, Houston said Schmidt claimed that the "Agent Orange" thing was a lie.
At one point, Houston asked Schmidt if he wanted to go to the bathroom. While Schmidt was inside, Houston called his wife and told her their exact location.
Officers arrested Schmidt inside the bathroom.
Oceanside Police Department Detective Brent Keyes said that Schmidt admitted to stabbing Bravo in the ear and the kidney, and tried to decapacitate him so he could not scream. Schmidt also sprayed down his vehicle, washed his clothes and the knife, Det. Keyes said.
Officers found the knife, clothing and other evidence inside Schmidt's home. Blood stains were also found inside his car, Keyes said.