Stabbing victim's fianceé testifies in murder trial

Stabbing victim's fianceé testifies in murder trial

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WATERLOO, Iowa —- The fianceé of a slain Dubuque man recounted the last moments of his life as the trial for his accused killer continued Thursday.

Authorities said Kenyatta Harlston, 40, of Clinton stabbed Nicholas Blackburn, 24, as Blackburn approached a racially charged fight in downtown Dubuque in August 2007.

Harlston’s second-degree murder trial was moved to Waterloo because of publicity in Dubuque.

Cher Finzel, 22, Blackburn’s fianceé and the mother of his two children, told jurors they started the night at the Summer’s Last Blast festival, and they went bar hopping for drinks and pool with friends after that.

Other witnesses said four black men began chasing Blackburn’s friend, Steve Gallaher, when Gallaher left the Instant Replay bar and began shouting “white power” and racial slurs.

A fight involving anywhere from seven to 16 people broke out, and Blackburn and Finzel came across the scuffle as they headed to Beanies restaurant for a bite to eat.

Finzel said Blackburn approached the fight and went into the crowd.

From a distance, she saw three black men next to Blackburn, who appeared to lose and then regain his balance. The trio then fled.

“It looked like his foot slipped,” Finzel said. “I made eye contact with Nick. He looked down, and I realized he was stabbed.”

She called 911 on her cell phone and took off after the fleeing black men. She identified one as Harlston.

Finzel broke into tears on the stand as prosecutors played a recording of her call to

dispatchers.

When the attackers escaped, Finzel returned to Blackburn, who had fallen to the ground.

“I lifted up his shirt to see where he was stabbed,” she said.

He wasn’t breathing and was turning blue, and she tried to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until police and paramedics arrived.

Also Thursday, a friend of Harlston said he saw Harlston near Blackburn during the fight.

The friend, Greg Buchanan, also described how Harlston changed his clothes and talked about ditching the knife after they retreated to the apartment of an acquaintance named Tony near the scene of the stabbing.

He said he didn’t see a knife during the scuffle and didn’t notice Harlston make any stabbing motions.

But he did see blood on Blackburn’s shirt, and he questioned Harlston when they fled back to the apartment.

“He paused and then he said ‘I (expletive deleted) stabbed him,’” Buchanan said.

Harlston and Tony changed clothes, and Harlston showed the others a folding knife and talked about washing it to remove any traces of blood.

Buchanan said he told Harlston he’d never be able to clean off all of the blood. He said he last saw the knife when Harlston walked toward the back of the apartment with it, and he assumes Harlston threw out the weapon.

Police arrived at the apartment a short time later.

He identified the knife when prosecutors showed one that was entered into evidence.

A Dubuque County sheriff’s deputy said Harlston didn’t appear remorseful when he was booked at the jail later that day.

The deputy testified Harlston told him he had been hit in the face and was jumped by several people. Harlston said it was “too bad someone had to die.”

The trial continues today at the Black Hawk County Courthouse.

Contact Jeff Reinitz at (319) 291-1578 or jeff.reinitz@wcfcourier.com.

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