Trial begins in Christmas Eve slaying in Santa Rosa

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Jeffrey Jones walked out of a downtown Santa Rosa brew pub on Christmas Eve last year and spotted a wadded up $20 bill on the ground in an alley behind the county library.

Jones thought it was odd that none of the homeless people camped out nearby noticed it first. But he bent down and picked it up.

“I thought, ‘Wow. Merry Christmas to me,’ ” Jones said.

But any feelings of good fortune quickly vanished. Lying in the driveway ahead was the lifeless form of a young man later identified as Montgomery High School graduate Nicholas Bloom, 22.

Jones said he walked a bit closer, saw more money and a wallet on the ground, and realized he’d stumbled upon a murder scene.

“There was a body lying there. There was blood everywhere,” Jones said. “I needed to call 911.”

Jones recounted the grisly discovery Monday at the opening of the trial for the man police believe killed Bloom, Vladimir Sotelo-Urena, 26.

Sotelo-Urena, who like Bloom was homeless, was found by police officers responding to Jones’ call. He had been sitting on the library steps, his clothes covered in blood and a knife in his backpack.

Officer Luis Pena testified he asked Sotelo-Urena what happened and the man made what sounded like a confession.

“Mr. Urena responded, ‘I got them before they got me,’ ” Pena said.

Another officer, Brandon Matthies, said the defendant told him, “He was trying to kill me.”

Inside his backpack was a large kitchen knife with more blood on it.

Bloom lay not far away near a disabled parking space with a laceration across his neck and stab wounds to his shoulder and torso.

He clutched another $20 bill and a tube of lip balm in his outstretched hand, the officers said.

Officer Tom Bohanan testified Bloom had no pulse when he arrived.

Bloom’s mother and aunt listened from the audience, wiping back tears. They turned away when prosecutors showed jurors a picture of Bloom lying on the ground, his white T-shirt covered in blood.

His aunt, Becky Glass, said Bloom had won $500 on a scratch-off lottery ticket a day earlier.

“It’s horrible,” she said before dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Sotelo-Urena showed no emotion as he listened to the testimony alongside his lawyers. His defense was not immediately clear.

He previously pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder with an enhancement for using a knife. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Jones, who had been in the Russian River brewery buying Christmas gifts for friends, said he saw Sotelo-Urena sitting on a staircase behind the library when he walked by. Jones wished Sotelo-Urena a Merry Christmas but he didn’t respond, Jones said.

After he found the body, he worried Sotelo-Urena would wander off before police arrived but he didn’t. Jones handed over the $20 bill to officers.

“I realized the money I found was part of the other bills,” Jones said.

Before Jones took the stand, another homeless person, Raymond Hoey, testified about overhearing an argument that turned into a scuffle.

Hoey, who was found curled in a fetal position in the library’s lower breezeway, said he heard “guttural sounds” from a person identified as Sotelo-Urena before hearing another voice yell, “Stop, stop.”

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne @pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.

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