Charges: Man responded to angry punches by fatally stabbing teenager and injuring 4 others in Apple River

A Prior Lake man stabbed a 17-year-old Stillwater boy to death and injured four others during a physical confrontation between him and several others in Apple River, a popular tubing destination in western Wisconsin, according to reports. charges filed Monday.

Nicolae Miu, 52, appeared via video link Monday afternoon in St. Croix County Circuit Court in Hudson and was posted $1 million cash bond after being charged with homicide in the first degree and four counts of attempted first degree homicide.

The case relies heavily on a video recorded Saturday afternoon by a man who was part of a tuber group, some of whom pushed Miu and accused him of looking for girls, the criminal complaint states. After a few minutes, Miu reportedly killed Isaac Schuman with a stab in the upper abdomen, while four others in their twenties were less seriously injured.

When questioned by law enforcement after his arrest, Miu said he acted in self-defense as several people walked towards him as he searched for a friend’s lost cellphone. He said some of them “produced two guns”, punched him and got on top of him at one point while calling him a child molester.

“They attacked me, [and] I was in self-defense mode,” the charges said. Once he saw someone with a knife, he continued, “I thought that was it for me.” He added that he didn’t remember stabbing anyone, and only had a knife with him earlier in the day to cut the string that held their tubes together.

Warned of the teen’s death, Miu said, “Oh, no,” the charges read.

If Miu posted bail, he would have to maintain “absolute sobriety” and not possess weapons, judge Michael Waterman said.

Miu, handcuffed and in an orange jail suit, sat quietly in a jail room under the watch of sheriff’s deputies during his first court appearance. A copy of the criminal complaint lay on a table in front of him. He answered “yes, sir” to the judge’s questions about his identity and other routine questions.

During the hearing, prosecutor Erica Ellenwood asked for $500,000 cash bond. Ellenwood acknowledged that Miu had no criminal record, but noted that he did not reside in the county and that a conviction for Schuman’s murder could result in a life sentence.

Defense attorney Jeremiah Harrelson pleaded for $50,000 bond. He pointed out that Miu owns his home, is the sole earner in his family, works as a mechanical engineer and has lived in the Twin Cities area since 1993.

Harrelson called the incident “an unplanned, random encounter on the river. … Something went wrong on the river, and it escalated into unfortunate, very unfortunate consequences.”

The judge has scheduled a hearing on Friday to discuss his legal representation, which will be followed by another hearing on August 12.

The Apple River has long been a major summer attraction for residents of the Twin Cities.

The victims and Miu were all coming down the river around 3:45 p.m., Sheriff Scott Knudson said. The attack happened just up the highway. Bridge 35/64 in Somerset Township, near the Minnesota border and northeast of Stillwater.

According to the criminal complaint:

Miu ran up to several people and grabbed their tubes, a video recording of the encounter provided to law enforcement revealed. The band members yelled at Miu to “go away.”

Miu walked around as if looking for something, started to leave before turning around and saying something. More people converged on him and shouted at him to leave. He walked up to a woman, and we heard people say “he was looking for little girls.”

The crowd grew and “it looks like at least one person touched her shoulder” as people were on three sides of Miu at varying distances. Miu had the “opportunity…to leave the confrontation,” but did not, according to the complaint.

As two women confronted her, Miu held a knife by her side with the blade exposed. Several people walked towards Miu and he fell backwards into the water and was slapped in the face.

Miu got to her feet and was pushed from behind by someone in a bathing suit who attacked her again. Miu then stabbed the person wearing the jersey in the abdomen “while being pushed back into the water on their back”.

As Miu stood up again, Miu’s shoving continued, and he responded with more stabbing motions and ran away.

Miu’s wife, Sondra Miu, told law enforcement that she and her husband went to the river with two friends to go tubing. She said her husband left the group to look for a cell phone that one of them had lost.

She said she saw people come out of their tubes and start hitting him, but she didn’t see anything else. She said Miu told her that people had taken the knife and swung it at him, accusing him of being a pedophile before attacking him.

Sondra Miu said she doesn’t think her husband “has been around long enough to hurt anyone,” according to the charges.

The surviving victims were all hospitalized in stable condition, ranging from serious to critical injuries to the torso or chest, the sheriff’s office’s statement Sunday said. They include two men from Luck, Wisconsin, one 20 and the other 22; a 24 year old female from Burnsville and a 22 year old male from Elk River. Those responsible have not yet revealed their identities.

Knudson said Monday afternoon that Luck’s two victims have since been discharged from the hospital.

The Burnsville wife is Ryhley Mattison, who explained on a GoFundMe page on her behalf that “friends and I were tubing when we arrived [across] a group asking for our help. My friends and I went to see what was going on, and there was an older man who was inappropriate and he was asked to leave but he didn’t. The older man ended up getting a knife and stabbing a few friends of mine and myself included.”

The sheriff said, “Thank goodness a witness took a picture of [the suspect]. Another witness located him at the exit of the tubing area, where he was taken into custody. It is not yet known who was related to whom, who knew each other or what precipitated it. It’s a tragic day.”

In response to the attack, the tubing service operator closed for the day on Sunday but resumed operations on Monday.

Saturday was “a difficult and tragic day on the river,” read a Facebook post from River’s Edge Campground on Sunday. “Tens of thousands of visitors every year…enjoyed floating down the river with family and friends. Yesterday an act of violence shattered that serenity.”

The knife attack came as a shock to longtime Apple River worker Chuck Ennis, who for 40 years helped people park their cars before tubing. He sometimes drives one of the buses that transport people to and from the water. He said on Monday he was sure he helped the victims park their car before they started tubing, and his daughter told him she remembered meeting Isaac Schuman, who died in the attack .

“She remembers talking to him because they struck up a little conversation,” Ennis said.

After the attack, law enforcement closed the river and Ennis and his daughter drove buses bringing people back to their cars.

“I’ve been doing this personally for 40 years and I’ve never seen anything close,” he said.

He said he expects people to stay off the river for now, maybe even for the rest of the season. Its activity on Monday was down significantly, with five groups on the river at lunchtime. Normally it would have a lot more people, he said.

“One thing that bothers me more than anything is that one person can screw something up so badly. It’s gotten to the point where it’s time to stop this madness,” he said.

Schuman was an incoming senior at Stillwater High School. A GoFundMe has been set up to benefit his family.

Star Tribune writer Matt McKinney contributed to this report.

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