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Not-guilty plea in Christmas Eve slaying of Santa Rosa man

  • Zak McKenna of Santa Rosa pays respects to friend Nicholas Bloom as he places flowers on evidence markings behind the central library in downtown Santa Rosa. Bloom was stabbed to death behind the library on Christmas Eve. (Kent Porter / PD)

A 26-year-old suspect pleaded not guilty Friday to murder in the fatal stabbing of a homeless man behind the downtown Santa Rosa library on Christmas Eve.

Vladimir Sotelo-Urena faces murder charges in the killing of Nicholas Bloom, 22, of Santa Rosa. Police said officers found Sotelo-Urena downtown with blood on his hands and clothes and carrying a bloody knife shortly after Bloom's body was discovered in an alley off of Fourth Street. Police said he admitted stabbing Bloom.

Police said Bloom was dead when they found his body with multiple stab wounds. An autopsy was still ongoing Friday, the Sonoma County Coroner's office said.

Kristine Burk, chief deputy public defender, asked Sotelo-Urena if he wanted to delay his plea until next week while she sorted out a potential conflict of interest.

“I don't see why that matters,” Sotelo-Urena said. “Not guilty.”

Sotelo-Urena, who also is identified as homeless, stood with his hands behind his back as he listened to the charges. He appeared in the courtroom for less than five minutes. Sonoma County Superior Judge Dana Beernink Simonds set the next hearing for 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Neither family nor friends of Sotelo-Urena were evident at Friday's hearing.

Bloom's aunt, stepfather and about a dozen friends watched the arraignment. Afterward, Chris Escalante said he wanted swift justice for his childhood friend.

“I miss him, I really do,” said Escalante. “I'd like to see a lifetime of imprisonment.”

Escalante said he grew up in the same Bennett Valley neighborhood as Bloom, and the two attended Montgomery High School together.

Until a few months ago, Bloom had worked at Third Street Aleworks, he said, but lately he had fallen on hard times and bounced around various friends' houses, eventually living on the streets of downtown Santa Rosa.

He said he did not know Sotelo-Urena and did not think Bloom knew him. He did not know what caused the altercation that led to the stabbing.

Escalante described Bloom as being very generous. About three weeks ago, Bloom won $500 on a Lottery Scratchers card. He invited Escalante to the Graton Resort and Casino to celebrate.

Bloom stayed at Escalante's house that night. That was the last time Escalante saw Bloom. His mother, Carol Escalante, drove Bloom to downtown Santa Rosa the next morning.

“I asked him 'Where do you see yourself in five years?'” she said. “He said 'I don't want to be on the streets downtown.' I gave him a big hug and dropped him off.”

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.

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