WI v. Nicolae Miu: Apple River Stabbings Trial

Posted at 12:04 PM, April 11, 2024 and last updated 12:24 PM, April 11, 2024

HUDSON, Wis. (Court TV) — A jury found a Minnesota man accused of killing a teenager and stabbing four other people after an argument while tubing on a river in Wisconsin guilty, but on lesser charges than he was originally facing.

Nicolae Miu booking photo

Nicolae Miu is accused of stabbing five people along a Wisconsin River. (St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office)

Nicolae Miu, 54, was charged with one count of intentional homicide and four charges of attempted intentional homicide. He claimed he acted in self-defense on July 30, 2022, in an incident that killed 17-year-old Isaac Schuman and injured another man so severely that his intestines were hanging from his body.

The jury found him guilty of first-degree reckless homicide, and guilty of four counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety. He was also found guilty of battery.

Miu, a mechanical engineer, was with a group of friends and his wife tubing on the Apple River in Western Wisconsin when he came across a separate group, which included the victim. Miu told police that one of his friends had lost a phone and he had gone to ask another group of people whether they had seen it floating down the river when he was attacked. Miu described the group as attacking him verbally, calling him a “child molester,” and one person tried to grab his swim trunks and pull them down. Miu told police that two of the people attacking him had weapons, and he managed to use the weapon against one before grabbing it away. Describing the scene, he said, “I was in self-defense mode.”

Photo of Isaac Schuman

Isaac Schuman was 17 when he was killed in a stabbing while tubing on the Apple River. (Court Exhibit)

But witnesses and cell phone videos shared with police tell a very different story, prosecutors said. Witnesses told police that Miu had been bothering a group of juveniles on their tubes, who then yelled for help from others. A detective who reviewed the videos described seeing people surrounding Miu on three sides. That same video, prosecutors said, also shows Miu pulling out the knife from his pocket, and not disarming an attacker like he said.

Schuman was pronounced dead at the hospital after deputies reported finding him without vital signs. Four other people, three men and a woman in their 20s who were not identified by name in court documents, suffered knife wounds as well. A responding officer said that the wound to one of the victim’s torso was so severe that it “was exposing internal organs from the inside of his body.”

Challenging Miu’s argument of self-defense, prosecutors argued he made “no attempt to escape” and told the jury that Miu had been the aggressor in the incident.


DAY 9 – 4/11/24

DAY 8 – 4/10/24

  • In his closing argument, prosecutor Karl Anderson said all defendant Nicolae Miu had to do was walk away to prevent “a senseless act of violence.” Anderson said Miu’s actions were not in self-defense, instead telling the jury they were ‘horrific’ and ‘senseless.’
  • In his closing argument, defense attorney Corey Chirafisi said, ‘Nicolae Miu doesn’t have to prove he acted in self-defense. The State has to prove that his belief was unreasonable.’ Chirafisi said a group of drunk teenagers saw an opportunity to torment a man who was by himself.
  • In his rebuttal argument, prosecutor Brian Smestad called Nicole Miu a ‘skilled and prolific liar.’ Smestad said Miu ‘prepared for violence,’ that he felt humiliated and he wasn’t going to let it go.

DAY 7 – 4/9/24

  • Victor Froloff, M.D., who works for the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office, and performed the autopsy on 17-year-old Isaac Schuman took the stand.
    • During Froloff’s testimony, the jury saw graphic autopsy photos. Froloff said Schuman’s cause of death was a stab wound to the left chest, which he measured to have a depth of 4.3 inches.
    • Froloff also testified that toxicology tests showed Schuman’s BAC to be 0.219
    • WATCH: Medical Examiner: Teen Victim’s BAC Was 2.5x Legal Limit
  • Lt. Brandie Hart of the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office, who interviewed Nicolae Miu just a few hours after the incident, also took the stand.
    •  The interview video showed Miu give a fairly detailed account of the incident, but it turned out to contain apparent falsehoods and embellishments not borne out in the video evidence.
  •  After the State rested, the defense called their final witness, Nicolae Miu. Miu said he feared for his life on the Apple River and insisted he only acted in self-defense

DAY 6 – 4/8/24

  • Owen Peloquin, who was part of Isaac Schuman’s tubing group, described their initial encounter with Nicolae Miu on the Apple River that day. He recalled first Miu “standing really weirdly” with a snorkel in “ankle-high” water, then said Miu “weirdly sprinted at us”
    • The State then played a snippet of Jawahn Cockfield’s video, where Miu can be seen making contact with the group while lunging for what appears to be a snorkel or goggles in the water. As he did so, one teen can be heard asking, “what is he on?” and as Peloquin says to Miu to “get away”
    • Members of Miu’s tubing group have previously testified that Miu had gone off with his goggles and snorkel to look for his friend Ariel Chaguez’ phone, which had been dropped in the river. Chaguez recalled telling Miu not to worry about it because he had phone insurance, but Miu insisted
    • Peloquin said Miu was “just mumbling and looking really scary”
    • He recalled the members of the Carlson tubing group coming over to help them, with Madison Coen arriving first and ordering Miu to leave
    • Peloquin said he and his friends thought it was “kind of fun and games at [that] point,” figuring that “the adults would work it out”
    • Miu didn’t leave, and then Peloquin recalled seeing a knife in his hand
    • Peloquin expressed regret for calling Miu names and acknowledged he wished he had done some things differently that day
  • Dr. Brian Myer described the critical injuries sustained by Rhyley Mattison and, to a greater extent, A.J. Martin, whose heart stopped for nine minutes while en route to Regions Hospital

DAY 5 – 4/5/24

  • Testimony was largely comprised of testimony from Spanish-speaking witnesses who were part of Nicolae Miu’s tubing group at the Apple River on July 30, 2022.
  • Nic’s tubing party have universally characterized him as a peaceful man. Those closest to him say he carried a knife often to help fix things around the house and elsewhere
  • Some of Miu’s tubing party said they were too far back (upriver) to see what exactly happened during the physical altercation.
  • Ernesto Torres Chaguez, who called Miu his best friend, was part of Miu’s tubing group along with several friends and family members. He testified that he saw 10 to 15 people in a confrontation with Miu and saw people shouting at him. He recalled Miu ending up “in the water,” at which point he “saw somebody hitting him.” Chaguez said that was all he saw of the altercation and insisted he never saw Miu do anything violent to anyone.
  • Ariel Chaguez, part of Miu’s tubing group, and a cousin to Ernesto, provided the most detailed account of the deadly confrontation thus far from the Miu group perspective. According to his account, he went to check on Miu when Miu’s wife said he was in trouble. At first, Chaguez recounted, the group of young people appeared to be “joking” with Miu, and that “somebody had taken his snorkel and thrown it down the river.” But as he got closer, he saw the people “started hitting [Miu],” and that “a girl went to attack him, and he defended himself.” Chaguez said he initially thought Miu was just using his hands in the struggle, but when he got closer, he “started to see the blood everywhere.”
  • Even with a duo of courtroom interpreters, there was still a mild language barrier at times, and attorneys occasionally abandoned lines of questioning when certain Spanish-speaking witnesses repeatedly expressed that they didn’t understand what they were being asked.
  • A state DNA analyst testified but your field producer could not ascertain any needle-moving information in her findings, especially since Miu is mounting an affirmative defense

DAY 4 – 4/4/24

  • The jury heard more testimony from eyewitnesses, including a nurse who attempted lifesaving measures on Schuman
  • The jury heard a 911 call and watched bodycam video from responding officers
  • WATCH: Apple River Stabbings Trial: Day 4

DAY 3 – 4/3/24

DAY 2 – 4/2/24

DAY 1 – 4/1/24

  • A jury was seated and both sides delivered opening statements.
  • The prosecution’s main argument was that Miu was the aggressor, and he had many opportunities to leave the scene once the teens began yelling at him and taunting him.  They say he chose to stay, and he escalated the situation when he punched a woman who confronted him and ordered him to leave the teens alone.  They also point to Miu’s lies to law enforcement about having had a knife with him and using it during the fight.
  • The defense argued Miu was reasonably scared for his life after he was surrounded by a group of aggressive drunk strangers who were yelling at him and getting in his personal space, so he used his knife to protect himself. After the teens began harassing him, he tried to leave the teens at one point, and he says they had followed him. Miu’s attorneys also say he was surprised and scared when the women that he thought were coming over to help him, began yelling at him also.  His attorneys acknowledge that he made a mistake by lying to law enforcement, but he was in shock after the fight.
  • Steven Kaufman testified about the search for Miu
  • During the testimony of witness Ryan Nelson, who was with victim Isaac Schuman, the jury saw video of the fatal stabbing.
    • WATCH: Video Shows Stabbing That Killed Teenager On Apple River
    • Nelson was not injured in the incident but he described how the teens say they were scared of how Nic Miu approached their group as he was trying to find his friend’s phone.
    • On cross, the defense tried to highlight inconsistencies of what they say is seen on the video and what Nelson testified about