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Tom Olsen, Forum News Service, Published October 18 2013

Man who stabbed roommate with sword is convicted of assault

DULUTH - A prosecutor told a Duluth jury Thursday that it was no accident when Kyle McClain stabbed a former roommate with a sword, and that there is no way the weapon could have penetrated Richard Stewart’s thick winter jacket and 5 inches of skin and flesh without force.

“He wants you to believe that Mr. Stewart’s body is a hot stick of butter,” Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Nate Stumme told the jury during closing arguments in the three-day-long trial.

The jury of 10 women and two men agreed, finding McClain guilty of first-degree assault with great bodily harm and second-degree assault following more than four hours of deliberation. Judge Mark Munger set McClain’s sentencing for 3:30 p.m. Dec. 12.

Afterward, Stumme said the state was pleased with the verdict.

“This assault case garnered attention not only for the life-threatening injury sustained by the victim, but also for the unusual weapon used to commit the crime,” he said. “Hopefully, sword fights in downtown Duluth will be few and far between.”

McClain’s public defender, Cynthia Evenson, declined to comment, other than to say that she felt badly for her client.

During his testimony in court, McClain did not deny stabbing Stewart on the night of Feb. 18, but claimed it was an accident.

Stewart testified that he was highly intoxicated and didn’t want to walk all the way home during a blizzard, so he went to the house where he used to live. Stewart continuously pounded on the door, while McClain, a resident at the house, attempted to get him to leave, according to testimony.

McClain, a martial arts enthusiast, testified that when Stewart left and returned to continue pounding, he grabbed a sword because he knew Stewart was intimidated by it. McClain said he was holding it at his side when Stewart lunged at him. In backing up to avoid Stewart, his arms and the sword swung forward, and the weapon may have struck Stewart, McClain said.

During an interview with police that night, McClain denied being aware that Stewart was at the residence or of there being any confrontation.

Stumme questioned why McClain would not have called authorities at the time of the accident or taken the opportunity to talk about it to police.

“He didn’t have enough time to come up with an accident defense, and knew the whole time that there was no legitimate defense,” Stumme argued. “If it was an accident, wouldn’t he have sought help? Wouldn’t a reasonable person call the police?”

Evenson, in her closing argument, told jurors that McClain panicked.

“It’s human nature to deny something,” she said. “If you deny doing something, you think maybe it’ll go away. If we all had the luxury of making different decisions in hindsight, no one on this earth would make mistakes.”

The case came down to credibility, Evenson told jurors. There were no witnesses to the stabbing, she said, so it was up to jurors to decide whether Stewart or McClain’s testimony was more believable.

She pointed out several inconsistencies in Stewart’s testimony, including his various descriptions of the sword and the confrontation between the two men.

Stumme, however, told jurors that McClain was calculated in his attack, citing the fact that he selected a weapon that he knew Stewart feared.

“Mr. McClain sought out the confrontation,” he said. “He was going to slay that dragon with his trusty sword.”