Apple River stabbing trial: Nicolae Miu testifies in his defense

Nicolae Miu took the stand in his own defense on Tuesday as part of his trial for the fatal Apple River stabbing on July 30, 2022. 

READ MORE: Key players in Nicolae Miu's trial

Nicolae Miu, 54, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and multiple counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide that could send him to prison for life if he is convicted. He is accused of killing Stillwater, Minnesota, native 17-year-old Isaac Schuman and wounding four others — Dante Carlson, Tony Carlson, Ryhley Mattison and A.J. Martin — on July 30, 2022. 

READ MORE: Timeline of what happened

Miu has claimed self-defense. Watch his testimony in the players below. 

Prosecution questions Nicolae Miu 

During cross-examination, Miu testified Ariel Chaguez Leyet's phone was in a float case. He was asked why he needed a snorkel and goggles to find a phone that was in a case designed to float and why he went over to Isaac Schuman's group on the south side of the river to look for the phone. He was also asked why he had his knife in his pocket, to which Miu said it happened to be in his pocket. The state also replayed the video evidence, including Miu touching his pocket where Miu had his knife. 

Miu said he was not angry until he was called a "Raper." The state also discussed his "anger scale," after the defense mentioned Miu's fear scale earlier in the day.

The state questioned his use of "stumbling" as he approached the tubes, with the prosecutor saying he didn't use this phrase until today. The state also pointed out Miu's false statements in his interrogation video compared to what he testified to on Tuesday.

Miu testified he was "overwhelmed and annoyed" in the video, not smiling. Here is the photo the prosecution referenced:

Nicolae Miu on the cellphone video. Miu testified on Tuesday he was "overwhelmed and annoyed," not smiling.

The state brought up a major topic in the trial — whether Miu hit Madison Coen — to which Miu testified during cross-examination, "I don't know if I touched her or not. It's possible that I did."

The prosecution noted Miu pulled up when he stabbed A.J. Martin instead of pulling out. After he stabbed Martin, Tony Carlson tried to break up the fight. And then Miu stabbed him. "I had milliseconds to think," Miu said.  

Ryhley Mattison was the next person stabbed, with the prosecution noting she wasn't punching or kicking Miu when she was stabbed. Then he stabbed Isaac Schuman, who was killed. 

"He went for my throat, so I defended myself," Miu said about Isaac Schuman.  

The last person stabbed was Dante Carlson. Miu said he thought he was attacking him but the prosecution said Miu had to take a couple steps forward to stab him.  

Miu admitted he was the only person who had a knife during the fight. 

After the fight, Miu walked up to Ernesto and then instead of walking to the tubing group, he walked to the south side of the river and tossed the knife onto the riverbank. Then he walked back to his tubing group, the state said. 

Miu said when he returned to the tubes, he put his shirt, hat and sunglasses back on. He saw first responders arrive at the river — he said he was afraid to go back to the area, but he said he does not remember much after that. He said he doesn't remember talking to anyone as they floated away. 

The state played a longer version of Sheriff Scott Knudson's body cam video of Miu in the back of the squad car that had not been previously played in court. This longer version was entered into evidence as rebuttal evidence. In the video, he told Sheriff Knudson he heard there was a stabbing. Miu testified he doesn't remember the conversation. 

The prosecution then picked apart Miu's interview with Lt. Hart in the jail after the stabbing, which was played in court earlier in the day. The defense had previously admitted Miu lied in the interrogation. 

"I lied. I totally lied … I don't even remember the interview." Miu testified about the interrogation. 

The prosecution pointed out Miu's ability to remember his feelings when questioned by the defense but his inability to remember things when questioned by the prosecution. 

In the defense's rebuttal, Miu said time slowed down during the fight.

Defense questions Nicolae Miu

The defense questioned Miu in his own defense on Tuedsay. He shared he was in bad health on the day he was tubing down the river, having had bypass surgery previously. He described his fitness on July 30, 2022, as "very poor." Miu broke down in tears talking about his dog, "his baby … his angel."

He testified Ernesto Torres Chaguez called him the morning of July 30, 2022, to bring a pocketknife to the river to cut the string that is used to tie the tubes together. At some point on the river that day, Miu testified he volunteered to look for Ariel Chaguez Leyet's phone that had gone missing in the river — he brought his snorkel and goggles with him, along with his pocketknife. Miu admitted to lying to Hart in the interrogation video about not having a knife with him. But he said he did not have the intent to harm anyone — he only left his group to look for the phone. 

Miu testified the group asked him what he was doing, and he said he was looking for a phone — he testified he never said he was looking for "little girls," saying, "It's pathetic."

Miu testified he saw a teenager holding a phone in a bag. He thought that was the phone he was looking for, so he approached them to see if it was Ariel's phone. He got near the group, stumbled and fell, holding onto their tubes. That's when he lost his goggles and snorkel kit in the water. He admitted this is a different account from what he told Hart in the interrogation video. 

Miu said he began looking for his goggles and snorkel set and made his way to the other side of the tubes. At that point, the teenagers warned him but Miu ignored them and continued looking for the goggles and snorkel, Miu testified. 


Apple River stabbing trial: Nicolae Miu's interrogation video played in court

Nicolae Miu's jailhouse interrogation video was played in court on Tuesday as part of his trial for the fatal Apple River stabbing on July 30, 2022. During the interview, he claimed he didn't have a knife.

At that point, Miu testified the group of teenagers began getting closer to him. And soon after, people — adults — began coming over from the other side of the river. He then walked toward the adults, including Madison Coen. Miu said Coen was yelling at him and used "awkward" words and ordering him away. Miu testified he was trying to explain what he was looking for. 

"They were all calling me names," Miu testified. 

Miu then turned his back to the two tubing groups because Coen wasn't listening, he testified. He had not found the snorkel, goggles or phone, and they were still yelling Miu was looking for "little girls." Miu was annoyed and frustrated by their words, he testified. 

Then, Miu testified Madison Coen grabbed his arm and he moved toward her. He said his footing was unstable in that area of the river. He then told her not to touch him and testified his comfort level was very low, but he was not afraid in this moment. He testified he was trying to call his group over to help him by waving them over. At the same time, Miu testified Coen waved to call her tubing group over, and they responded. 

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Nicolae Miu on the stand in his trial on April 9, 2024. 

At this point, Miu testified his fear is "creeping up." And then as his fear got "really high" he reached for his pocketknife, he testified. 

When Madison Coen was pushing his left shoulder and yelling at him, he testified, Miu had a knife in his hand because he "was beginning to be afraid." 

"I was surrounded. They were yelling. They had just pushed me … they squeezed my arm. It seemed they were not backing away," Miu testified, saying he didn't feel comfortable turning around. 

At this point, he started to feel a 6 or a 7 on his fear scale of 10. After he was pushed, he was afraid, so he pulled out his knife, he testified. He pushed Madison Coen away with his left hand, he said. He did not intend to hurt her, but tried to get her out of his space, he testified. He did not feel safe turning his back on the group. 

Miu testified he doesn't remember where she touched Madison Coen, but it would not surprise him that he touched her. After that, he testified, almost right away he got punched in the side of the head and fell into the water, he testified. He said he felt "stunned," and "afraid" — at a 10 on his fear scale. He testified he hit his head on a rock and it felt like his head went underwater. He was punched in the head and when he tried to get up, he was pushed back down into the water, he testified. 

He testified he was hit in the head or bumped his head at least four times at this point and his fear was at a 10 out of 10. 

He used his knife because he feared for his life, he testified. He did not know how else to escape. 

On July 31, 2022, Miu testified he hurt everywhere, including his throat — after seeing the video, Miu recalls hands around his neck during the fight and fearing for his life. In response, he reached out and stabbed Isaac Schuman. 

Isaac Shuman's hands on Nicolae Miu's neck, as seen in cellphone video of the attack on the Apple River.  (FOX 9)

Miu testifies that his twin brother is in the courtroom, and he loves him. He has spoken with his brother about what happened on the river that day.

Miu testified at some point, people stopped attacking him so he walked away. He didn't stay — he walked away toward his group where it was safe, and he became less afraid. But his head was in a fog, he was stressed, his heartbeat was super high and he had diarrhea. 

He testified he tossed the knife because he was afraid, he was "overwhelmed with fear" and "I didn't want to have anything to do with that."

Once he got back to the tubes, he testified he barely remembered anything. He doesn't remember what he told his tubing group, "My head was in a thick cloud. I couldn't understand what just happened — still trying to process everything. I was overwhelmed." 

Miu testified he doesn't remember the interview with Investigator Brandi Hart but he said he can't deny he "feared for his life."  Miu says he has had nightmares about what happened to him on the Apple River the day he was attacked.

Miu testified when he used the knife, he felt he was under attack — he was pushed, punched, he hit his head. He testified he used his knife to defend himself; he believed he needed to use the knife. 

"I believe I would have been killed that day," Miu testified. 

Apple River stabbing: What happened 

According to court records, the stabbing took place on the Apple River near the Sunrise Bridge in Somerset, Wisconsin, which allegedly started after Miu was apparently looking for a friend, Ariel Chaguez Leyet's, cell phone in the river but was confronted by tubers who said he was acting sketchy. 

The encounter escalated, and he apparently punched a female, Madison Coen, on the left side of her face before Miu was punched, eventually leading to the stabbing.

Witnesses began calling 911 at 3:47 p.m. on July 30, which indicated there were potentially four or five victims with wounds to the mid to upper body. 

A 24-year-old woman from Burnsville, Minnesota, a 20-year-old and 22-year-old man from Luck, Wisconsin, and a 22-year-old man from Elk River, Minnesota, were injured in the attack. But, 17-year-old Schuman died from his injuries.   

According to the criminal complaint, Miu claimed the attack was self-defense. He said he was "so fearful" for his safety, adding he wasn't sure what the people in the river were going to do to him, and "everything happened so fast."