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The man accused in a Wisconsin river killing says a missing cellphone led to the confrontation

Nicolae Miu, 52, is accused of fatally stabbing a 17-year-old and injuring four adults.

A stabbing incident that left four people injured and a teenager dead in Wisconsin started after a man who’d been tubing down a river went searching for his friend’s lost cellphone, the accused killer told authorities in court documents released Monday.

Nicolae Miu, 52, told a sheriff’s lieutenant that he’d asked a group also tubing on the Apple River on Saturday if they’d seen the phone, which was in a floating bag, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in St. Croix County Circuit Court.

Miu, who had snorkel gear on at the time, claimed that some in the group responded by calling him a child molester and tossing his snorkel gear in the river, according to the affidavit. 

Miu accused one person in the group of trying to pull down his swimming trunks, according to the affidavit.

Officers investigate the stabbing of tubers along the Apple River in Wisconsin.
Officers investigate the stabbing of tubers along the Apple River in Wisconsin.

Witnesses cited in the affidavit said the altercation turned physical after Miu punched or slapped a female in the group. A person in the group then struck Miu, who fell in the river before producing a three-inch blade and allegedly stabbing multiple people, according to the affidavit.

A description of a cellphone video of the incident included in a second affidavit from a sheriff’s deputy reportedly shows Miu emerging from the water carrying a snorkel. He can be seen running up to the group’s tubes and grabbing them while they told him to “get away,” according to the affidavit.

At one point during the recording, people in the group can be heard saying that Miu was “looking for little girls,” according to the affidavit. 

The video shows a group converging on Miu, who appeared to have a knife in his pocket and the “opportunity” to leave the confrontation, the affidavit says. A skirmish followed, with Miu appearing to remove the knife from his pocket before falling backwards into the water, according to the affidavit.

After someone can be seen slapping Miu in the face, the recording shows, he tried to get up but was pushed back into the water, according to the affidavit. When the same person advanced on Miu again, Miu could be seen stabbing him in the abdomen, the affidavit says.

The video captured Miu stabbing others and at one point leaning over a victim in the water.

In an interview with the sheriff’s lieutenant, Miu denied bringing a knife with him to the river and said the group attacked him.

"I was in self-defense mode,” he said, according to the affidavit. 

When the lieutenant told him that one person had died and four were injured, he apologized and said his life was "down the tubes," according to the affidavit.

Miu, a mechanical engineer, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide and four counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

During a court appearance Monday, Miu's bail was set at $1 million, NBC affiliate KARE reported. It wasn't clear if he had a lawyer to speak on his behalf.

The conditions of the four injured adults wasn't immediately clear.

CORRECTION (Aug. 2, 2022, 10:23 a.m.): A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the state where the stabbing incident took place. It is Wisconsin, not Minnesota.