A woman who was once thrown from the path of an out-of-control car by Michael Valentine says the murder victim was an "all-round nice guy" and described his death at his home on Friday as a tragedy.
Nicole McGill had known Valentine, 27, for about 10 years, and was standing outside a bar in 2006 waiting to go home when a drunk driver in a stolen car veered off the road and jumped the kerb.
Valentine bore the brunt of the force as the car ploughed into the group, spinning him in such a manner that he knocked her out of the way, she said.
"It was an unintentional shove, but I still owe my life to him."
Valentine died on the front lawn of his rural home off State Highway 1, 7km north of Levin, on Friday night from a single knife wound to the chest.
Two men arrested in connection with the killing made brief court appearances in Palmerston North.
Stoyan Militch, 31, a Levin chef, is charged with Valentine's murder.
He also faces a charge of assault with a weapon, with court documents alleging he assaulted Valentine with a "sharpening steel".
Factory hand Michael Paul Zimmerman, 29, of Levin, also faces an assault with a weapon charge.
Neither entered pleas as they stood side by side before Judge David Smith in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday.
Reflecting on the car crash, McGill said that, despite being pushed from the path of the car, she broke a bone in her hand, had extensive bruising, and her shoulder was dislocated in and out of its socket. But it could have been much worse.
Valentine was pinned against a wall by the car and suffered extensive injuries.
The crash created a "sort of bond" between them, she said, and she kept tabs on him as he remained on life support in Palmerston North Hospital for two weeks.
During that time he was pronounced dead several times, she said.
Having survived all that, it was tragic that he should die the way he did.
McGill said the last time she saw Valentine was a couple of months ago while in town.
"He was a very good bloke, legend. Just an all-round nice guy with a heart of gold."
It was even sadder knowing he was a father, she said. Valentine's grieving stepfather John Timmer-Arends said yesterday his son's body had been brought home that morning and his family had gathered there to pay their respects.
"Everyone is pretty upset," he said.
Valentine's funeral would be held tomorrow, at the Salvation Army Worship and Community Centre in Levin at 11am.
His family released a statement yesterday.
"For us the past four days have been like living in a nightmare," the family said.
"The loss of Michael has left a huge void in our lives and we are still coming to terms with his death.
"His loyalty and love for his family and friends was immense. Thank you to everyone for your messages of strength, love, and support.
"We are hugely appreciative of everyone who has helped our family over the past few days, including those who have provided information to police."
Lawyer Simon Hewson, who is assigned to Militch and acted for Zimmerman as duty solicitor, told the court they were remanded in custody by consent.
Militch will appear in the Levin District Court on February 13.
"I'm anticipating some disclosure between now and that date that would allow me to assess the strength of that case and perhaps mount a bail application," Hewson said of Militch.
Hewson said he advised Zimmerman to arrange a lawyer before he is next in court on Thursday in Levin, where a 22-year-old will also appear on a related charge.
Militch's family had its own tragedy to deal with in March 2009 when his father, Steven, 55, was one of two men to drown off Hokio Beach on a fishing trip.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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