A witness recalled in court Tuesday how, three years ago, he frantically chased and eventually tried to run down the man he believed had just stabbed his boss.
As he honked his horn to attract police, Jorge Diaz said, he pointed out the man to officers, who arrested Charles K. Biddle, a former peep-show bouncer.
Diaz was the first witness in the first-degree murder trial of Biddle, 33, charged in the stabbing death of Jeffrey Collins, 38, a Los Angeles firefighter who also owned a Van Nuys printing shop where Diaz worked as a pressman.
About two weeks after Biddle's arrest on Nov. 9, 1984, police arrested a second suspect in Collins' death, Robert Herbst, owner of a Van Nuys bookbinding business. At that time, police alleged that Herbst had hired Biddle to kill Collins because of a soured business deal.
Although Herbst also was charged with Collins' murder, the charge later was dropped because prosecutors said they lacked sufficient evidence. Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Diamond did not mention Herbst's name to the nine-man, three-woman jury in Van Nuys Superior Court on Tuesday.
Diamond told jurors that Biddle, who did not know Collins, went to Collins' Kennedy Printing Service looking for him twice before the stabbing. The third time, Biddle went to the back door looking for Collins, Diamond said.
Diaz, who still works for the printing company, which is now owned by Collins' parents, testified that Collins and Biddle went out the back door to talk. After he heard Collins groan, Diaz said, he went outside and saw the two men struggling, with Biddle holding a knife.
Biddle left on foot, and, Diaz said, he followed in his car and in time flagged down the police who made the arrest. Biddle later showed police where he had hidden the knife, Diamond said.
Biddle's attorney, William M. Thornbury, gave no opening statement Tuesday.
The Biddle case has gone through several legal gyrations in the last three years. A murder charge against Biddle has been twice filed and twice dropped because of legal technicalities. He was charged a third time in March, 1986.
After the third charge, Thornbury argued unsuccessfully that the case should be dismissed because state law prohibits the refiling of a charge that has been twice dropped.