Schmidt murder trial set to begin in October

9/10/2013

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

A pre-trial conference was held Monday for a Garden City man who for the second time, faces a first-degree murder charge in the stabbing death of a Garden City man.

Fred Schmidt, Jr., 34, Garden City, who in addition to being charged with first-degree murder in the March 2011 death of Jeffrey Nichols, also faces counts of aggravated robbery, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and the use of a telecommunication device to facilitate drug crimes. His trial is scheduled to start Oct. 21 in Finney County District Court.

Schmidt appeared in court Monday, alongside his attorney, Public Defender Kristi Cott.

Assistant county attorneys Will Votypka and Jonathan Zadina, representing the State of Kansas, were also in court, where each side presented pre-trial motions before District Court Judge Robert J. Frederick.

Schmidt initially was arrested in April 2011 on allegations of second-degree murder in connection with the March 29, 2011, stabbing death of Nichols. The night Nichols was killed, Nichols and Schmidt allegedly engaged in a fight at or near Nichols' 1909 Sloan St. residence, about a block from where Garden City police later found Nichols' body.

Forensics reports indicated that Nichols died from 45 stab wounds to the neck, face and back.

In May 2011, Schmidt was bound over for trial on charges of second-degree murder, along with several drug-related charges. He later pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charge, claiming self-defense.

The Finney County Attorney's Office, upon further investigation, determined there was enough evidence to charge Schmidt with first-degree murder, but in a July 20, 2011, preliminary hearing, Judge Philip Vieux failed to find probable cause to bind Schmidt over for trial on the first-degree murder charge.

The Finney County Attorney's Office appealed Vieux's decision, which required the initial case against Schmidt to be dropped, resulting in his release from the Finney County Jail on Aug. 3, 2011.

In June 2012, the Kansas Court of Appeals overturned Vieux's ruling and Schmidt was bound over on one count of first-degree murder, one count of aggravated robbery and three felony drug charges.

After that ruling, the Finney County Sheriff's Office, unable to locate Schmidt, listed him as a wanted fugitive for first-degree murder and aggravated robbery on the National Crime Information Center database. In May, Schmidt was located in D'Iberville, Miss., where he was arrested by the D'Iberville Police Department. He was transported to the Finney County Jail, where he currently is being lodged as he awaits trial.

The next pre-trial conference in the case is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 11.

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