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UPDATE: Despite police reopening an investigation into a stabbing, prosecutors proceded with their substantial battery case Wednesday against Nick Tobias.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges. Tobias is slated to have a status conference on the case at 9 a.m. Sept. 25.
ORIGINAL STORY: Mount Pleasant Police are reopening an investigation into a stabbing after discovering evidence that potentially contradicts findings in the complaint filed by the Racine County District Attorney’s Office.
Filed July 18, the complaint alleges that Nick Tobias, 45, of West Allis, stabbed a man who was trying to stop a fight in the smoking room at the Cham-Tap bar on May 29, 2017.
Since the DA originally brought charges, the Racine County Eye has obtained video of the stabbing — a video the detectives had not seen until Monday. It showed Tobias leaving the room five minutes before the stabbing took place; he is not seen in the room during the fight.
Detectives with the Mount Pleasant Police Department became aware of the video contents when asked for comment by Racine County Eye, and said they are reopening the case.
Detective Dan Schauer is reviewing the video.
“The other issue in this is that other people were not forthcoming. Obviously, it would have helped if people would have told us it wasn’t Nick,” Schauer said. “Ultimately it’s our job to get this right and if it wasn’t Nick, then we’ll reach out to the ADA on this and clear it up from there.
“We’re still responsible for getting it right.”
Criminal complaint points to Tobias
A man with the initials of T.P.M. was stabbed in the arm at 12:43 a.m. May 29, 2017, inside the Cham-Tap Bar, 2511 Durand Ave., according to the criminal complaint.
T.P.M didn’t know the name of the man who stabbed him. But he and Meagan Kirkland, a bartender at the Cham-Tap, described Tobias to police, the complaint reads.
The three-paragraph-long complaint states Kirkland identified Tobias in a photo lineup, and that there was video footage of the incident.
Kirkland recanted her testimony during a preliminary hearing held Wednesday.
Video footage obtained by the Racine County Eye does not match the events outlined in the criminal complaint. The video shows Tobias leaving the smoking room in the back of the bar at 12:37 a.m., about five minutes before the fight happens. At 12:46 p.m., Tobias walks into the front of the bar, and walks back out.
Racine County Eye is choosing not to share the video so it does not affect the investigation.
An open records request was filed with the Mount Pleasant Police Department to obtain the police report. Captain Brian Smith said Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson would not release it because it was a pending investigation.
Man involved in fight tells his side
Kyle Larson, a friend of Tobias, told the Racine County Eye that the bar fight started between him and an unknown bald man wearing a dark t-shirt and light-colored shorts. Tobias has hair and he was wearing a baseball cap, jeans and a light-colored button-up shirt the night of the fight, the video shows.
Neither the bald man or Larson are referred to by name in the criminal complaint, only that T.P.M. was breaking up a fight between two men in the smoking room located in the back of the bar.
The fight started when the bald man started “talking trash” to Nick’s cousin Anita and Larson, he said.
“I felt threatened and we got into a fight,” Larson added. “Then the fight got broken up and I ran outside to look for Nick, but I couldn’t find him and the guy (the bald man) tried to hit me with his van.”
Running back into the bar, Larson saw that T.P.M. had been stabbed and he, too, wasn’t feeling right. While walking out the door to leave, Larson realized he was bleeding and had been stabbed seven times, he said.
“When I was leaving (the second time), Nick was walking up to the door, ” Larson said. “When he saw me, I told him I had been stabbed and Nick and I got into his car and left.”
Larson uncooperative with police
Later that night, Larson’s sister took him to a hospital in Kenosha for treatment for his stab wounds, and officers with the Mount Pleasant Police Department showed up.
“I didn’t give a statement that night,” he said. “I lied and said I woke up like this, that I was so intoxicated that I didn’t know what happened.”
Officers told Larson they knew he was lying, that they knew he was at the Cham-Tap. They asked about Nick. Months later, Larson received a municipal citation in the mail for disorderly conduct for starting the fight.
When he found out a few weeks ago that Tobias was getting charged with stabbing T.P.M, Larson contacted detectives at the Mount Pleasant Police Department and told them what had happened.
“They told me they had enough evidence and they didn’t need anything from me,” Larson said. “I asked how I could help my friend and they said I needed to contact the DA. I tried contacting the DA and wasn’t able to because there is no voicemail and it just kept ringing.”
Racine County Eye contacted Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson’s several times over the last two weeks by leaving messages and sending emails. She reached out to Racine County Eye Monday afternoon saying that she would not be in the office until Tuesday. We’ll do a follow-up story when we are able to speak with someone from her office.
To protect the investigation, Tobias also declined to comment any further about the case.
Case initially not referred for further investigation
Lt. Scott Geyer, of the Mount Pleasant Police Department, said several witnesses — a total of four were in the room when the fight started — were uncooperative during the investigation.
From the Department’s perspective, there was nothing unusual about the case that required further investigation by the detective bureau. They had Kirkland’s statement and the man’s description. It was never referred to the detective bureau for further investigation, Geyer said.
“If there had been any question about the identity of the suspect at the time, there would have been a recommendation (to the detective bureau). But that didn’t happen,” he said.
Still, Geyer told the Racine County Eye that he understands the level of frustration of those involved. He has since had Dan Schauer, another investigator, look at the video.
“If it’s not Nick, we would want to get this cleared up as soon as possible and get him exonerated,” Schauer said.
He also said his department had no control over the timeframe of when the DA issues charges.
Witness recants story
During the preliminary hearing held Wednesday, David Saldana, Tobias’ attorney, asked what identification — if any — Kirkland made of Tobias that evening.
Kirkland said officers with the Mount Pleasant Police Department showed her a photo array of men and asked if she recognized any of the men being at the bar. She pointed out Tobias.
“Both of them had been at the bar, but it was never asked if they did the stabbing,” she said.
“So you identified Mr. Tobias’ photo as being in the bar?” Saldana asked.
“Correct,” Kirkland said.
“Not as having been the stabber?” Saldana asked.
“Correct,” she responded.
Racine County Assistant District Attorney Chris D. Steenrod then asked if Kirkland recalled telling officers that she suspected Tobias in the stabbing. She didn’t recall saying that to officers and denied telling them, “You didn’t hear that from me.”
“So you are saying the officers are lying?” Steenrod said.
“Obviously,” Kirkland replied.
Steenrod moved to have the case bound over for trial while Saldana moved to have the case dismissed. But Rudebusch sided with the prosecutors and bound the case over for a trial.
The case is set for arraignment for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Racine County Felony Court.