A triathlete and one-time U.S. Marine combat skills instructor stabbed a man in the ear and kidney to keep him from screaming at an Oceanside construction site, according to attorneys and testimony in court Wednesday.
Mikhail Schmidt, 30, an eight-year veteran of the Marine Corps, previously pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge in connection with Jacob Laughlin Bravo's death, found dead inside a trailer on a construction lot on Windward Way on March 9.
On Wednesday, a judge ruled there is enough evidence for the case to move to trial.
According to a deputy district attorney, Schmidt and Bravo did not know each other.
Witness Richard Rengal, who also lived in the trailer, testified that he had seen Bravo walk past his window before he went to sleep around 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. the night before the incident. He awoke around 11 p.m. to use the bathroom and saw that a light was on in the front area of the trailer where Bravo slept.
"I didn't think nothing of it because it was just normal. I mean, he'd be out there on his phone or listening to music so I just did my thing, laid back down and went back to sleep," he testified.
Around 5 a.m., Rengel said he woke up and became concerned after seeing the light was still on.
"I pulled the door, bathroom door, closed and saw Jacob laying on the floor and I thought at first that maybe he had gone out and drank a little too much and passed out on the floor," he said.
But, Rengel testified, when he called out Bravo's name and looked closer, he saw the blood on the floor.
Schmidt's defense attorney claimed Bravo routinely went to bars in Oceanside, as per Rengel's statement to police. But Rengel said he did not recall saying that.
Matthew Houston, the owner of Endurance House, a sports store in Oceanside, said 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.
Schmidt left the Marine Corps in August 2013 as a Staff Sergeant, E-6, according to Public Affairs Officer Maj Garron J. Garn.
He was deployed to Iraq for seven months in 2008. His last assignment was as a Marine Combat Instructor with the Infantry Training Battalion-West at Camp Pendleton, Garn said.
Houston testified he noticed "a little more erratic behavior" in Schmidt on March 9 when he came to work. When Schmidt became agitated during a phone call and threw his phone, Houston said 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, Schmidt went into the store's restroom, and Houston said that's when he called his wife and told her to call the police.
Houston and Schmidt took a walk on 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 detective Brent Keyes that Schmidt admitted to stabbing the victim in the ear and the kidney to decapacitate him so he could not scream. Schmidt also sprayed down his vehicle, washed his clothes and the knife.
Officers found the knife, clothing and other evidence inside Schmidt's home. Blood stains were also found inside his car, Keyes said.
There is no information on a possible motive.
Schmidt's lawyer claimed his client suffers from PTSD and had a seizure that put him in a coma for six days.
If convicted, he could get 26 years in prison.