By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
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By Patricia Calhoun
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Within seconds, the other two men caught up. One sat on Wieland, pinning him down while the first guy kicked him and the third, who was dressed as a soldier for Halloween, beat Wieland in the head with his metal Army helmet again and again. People yelled at the men to stop, screaming, "You're killing him!"
The whole fight lasted no more than a couple of minutes, and afterward, the three took off as Wieland lay on the sidewalk.
Loren Mendenhall witnessed the beating and knelt down to help Wieland. He was "incoherent and unresponsive," Mendenhall said during a March 14 preliminary hearing for Brian Stockdale, Brandon Robbins and Michael Scott Dietert, the three men later implicated in the fight. As Wieland struggled to move, Mendenhall noticed a laceration on the back of the man's head. There was "lots of blood on the concrete," he recalled. "His scalp was mangled." Mendenhall, who has some medical training, also noticed that Wieland's eyes were small at first and then became dilated. "He was conscious but not alert. He couldn't answer any questions."
Breckenridge police responded quickly to the scene, and Wieland was taken to the Summit Medical Center, then airlifted to St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver because his injuries were so severe. He died eight days later. The pathologist who performed the autopsy determined that Wieland died of head injuries.
Mendenhall, a 25-year-old Kentucky native who has lived in Summit County for five years, had ended up at Mambo's that night to grab some pizza with friends after last call. When they'd arrived a little after 2 a.m., about thirty people were in the basement-level restaurant on Main Street. A young guy wearing a soldier costume -- complete with flak jacket, camouflage and helmet -- walked in with a red husky puppy about fifteen minutes later. Mendenhall didn't think much of it until he left the bar later that morning. Outside, he saw the man again, arguing with Wieland and two others, one of whom was spitting blood and shouting at Wieland, "Look at what you did!"
Mendenhall watched as Wieland walked away, then stood paralyzed as the man was bludgeoned. He remembers hearing two distinct sounds: a scraping noise as the helmet missed Wieland, hitting the pavement, and the muffled thump of it banging against the man's head. When Mendenhall described these blows at the hearing, Wieland's mother, Jocelan Martell, closed her eyes, tilted her head back and grimaced.
The man in camouflage who beat Wieland with his helmet was later identified as the 21-year-old Robbins; the man who chased Wieland after he walked away, knocking him to the ground and kicking him, was Stockdale, 20. And Dietert, 21, was the one Wieland had punched after being called a faggot and who later held Wieland down while the other two beat him.
After the fight, Dietert turned himself in and led authorities to the other two men. Breckenridge police sergeant Susan Quesada, the only other witness to testify during the preliminary hearing, said a search of Robbins's home turned up camouflage clothing and a red husky puppy. (The helmet has yet to be found.)
Despite such evidence, however, defense attorneys took issue with Mendenhall's recollections, since the witness had been unable to recognize Robbins and Stockdale in a photo lineup or sitting before him at the hearing. For instance, although he remembered the camo-clad man as having blond hair, Robbins's hair is dark brown. And Mendenhall had described the man who kicked Wieland as having a pointy nose and long, dark hair, yet Stockdale has medium-length brown hair.
All three men are currently out on bond. Robbins and Stockdale are scheduled for arraignment on June 2, but Dietert has entered a plea bargain with Summit County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert. In exchange for testifying in his friends' trial, Dietert will accept a manslaughter charge and receive probation. Robbins and Stockdale, however, face charges of second-degree murder, which can bring 16 to 48 years in prison, and first-degree assault, a Class 3 felony that carries a prison term of 8 to 24 years.
Because the case is ongoing, much of the court file is closed to the public, including the search and arrest warrants, which have been sealed. For that reason, many questions about the night, such as what led up to the deadly encounter, remain unanswered.
Breckenridge police chief Rick Holman believes the fight stemmed from an altercation that had occurred a week or two earlier. While out celebrating a birthday, one of the suspects ran into Wieland on the street, and "some words were exchanged," says Holman, who isn't sure whether the incident entailed anything physical. "Then they recognized him a week later, and there was a comment that sparked it off." (The only suspect whose birthday was around that time is Robbins, who turned 21 on October 11.)
Sergeant Quesada testified that Dietert had gone alone to Mambo's, where he ran into Stockdale and Robbins. The other two, she said, pointed Wieland out to Dietert. A recent article in the Summit Daily News, citing previous court appearances in the matter, states that Robbins and Stockdale were already arguing with Wieland when Dietert arrived. Dietert's attorney, Daniel Recht, says his client had never met Wieland before that night and that Dietert, Robbins and Stockdale "were acquaintances at best."