A bloody death after minor spat turned violent
Two days after Michael "Maka" Valentine bled out on his front lawn, Detective Senior Sergeant Marc Hercock said he knew why he died.
"It's not something that I consider would cause concern for people to fight over, let alone this to occur," Hercock said.
Valentine - a father to Luca and recently engaged to Elizabeth Ham - allegedly died over ill-feeling about a broken hard drive and someone urinating on a toothbrush.
That information was not revealed until the first day of the trial, 15 months after Valentine died.
The suspects - Stoyan Militch, Brayden Windley and Michael Paul Zimmerman - were rounded up within days of the 27-year-old's death, and all appeared in court before Valentine's funeral on February 6.
At the funeral, minister Llew King described the death as "crazy and senseless" and a "living nightmare" for his family.
"Dark days in this town of Levin, and everyone feels it."
Valentine had dodged death in the past. In 2006, he was outside a bar with a group of people, waiting to go home, when a drunk driver in a stolen car veered off the road and jumped the kerb.
He bore the brunt of the force from the car, and was spun in such a manner that he knocked Nicole McGill out the way.
She told the Manawatu Standard she owed her life to Valentine, who was on life support in Palmerston North Hospital for two weeks after the smash.
But he could not dodge death again after being stabbed in the chest on February 1.
On the first day of the trial in the High Court at Palmerston North, Crown prosecutor Deborah Davies said Militch, Windley and Zimmerman had gone to the property with knives and two dogs, wanting to hurt Valentine and possibly Ham as well.
There was arguing, during which Windley yelled aggressively about the hard drive and "stuff" - which his defence lawyer Fergus Steedman later said was a single marijuana plant - and a fight broke out.
The three ended up brawling with Valentine, before one of them stabbed him under his right arm, Davies said.
Ham said he let out a gurgling sound before being lowered to the ground by Zimmerman and Militch.
Valentine lay on the ground, his blood pooling in his mouth and seeping into the dirt, while the three men jumped into a Mitsubishi 4-wheel drive and headed back to Levin.
All three men were charged with murder because they dished out violence as a group.
In the end, all three admitted only to Valentine's manslaughter, and the identity of the person who plunged the knife into his chest, ending his life, will never be known for sure.
- Manawatu Standard
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