NEWBURYPORT — A second defendant in Sunday morning's stabbing at the Driftwood Motel will be held in jail without bail on the charge of assault to murder after the victim told police he thought one person held him down while a second suspect, already in custody, stabbed him with a soldering iron.
Katie L. Bieniecki, 33, of 457 Spruce St., Manchester, N.H., entered a not guilty plea at her arraignment yesterday at Newburyport District Court before Judge Peter Doyle. Bieniecki, like her boyfriend, Eric Labarge, 33, who listed room 210 at the Driftwood Motel as his address, is charged with assault to murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and aggravated assault and battery in the Sunday morning stabbing of Eric Lemire, 34, of 126 Lowell St., Manchester, N.H. Bieniecki is also charged with being an accessory after the fact.
Lemire is listed in stable condition at Beth Israel Hospital with seven stab wounds, two of which punctured his lungs.
Labarge was arrested on Sunday and arraigned on Monday, and — as he did with Labarge — yesterday Doyle found probable cause to hold Bieniecki without bail pending a dangerousness hearing on Friday.
Police issued charges against Bieniecki on Monday, after Detective Steve Sforza interviewed the victim in the hospital. According to the police report on the interview found in court documents, Lemire said that during the attack, Bieniecki held him down so Labarge could stab him.
Salisbury Detective Sgt. Anthony King said yesterday the motive for the stabbing is still unknown.
"We know they were doing drugs from statements made," King said. "And we found drug paraphernalia — the needles and syringes (in Bieniecki's purse). But we still don't know what caused the fight."
Assistant District Attorney Maura Bailey told Doyle that according to the initial police report, police were alerted to the incident Sunday morning around 9 by other residents at the Driftwood Motel. When they arrived, they found Lemire on the deck of Room 210 bleeding from several wounds, calling for an ambulance and screaming he was going to die.
Prior to being taken to the hospital, Lemire told police Labarge had stabbed him, resulting in Labarge being taken into custody, questioned and later charged. Originally, police only intended to charge Bieniecki with being accessory to the crime after it occurred, but Sforza's interview with the victim changed that.
Bailey told Doyle the three friends had been partying in the room at the motel all night. On Sunday morning, Lemire wanted to go back to Manchester, where all three live, but the other two didn't. Bieniecki and Labarge then went into the bathroom, staying there for half an hour, Bailey said. When the couple emerged from the bathroom, Lemire entered.
It was then, according to Lemire's statement to Sforza, that Labarge burst into the bathroom and started stabbing him.
Police believe the weapon used was found in Bieniecki's purse, according to court documents. It was initially described as a metal object that resembled a screwdriver. However, Bailey said yesterday, it was eventually identified as a soldering iron.
"The victim stated that the male (Labarge) had attacked him for no reason and had repeatedly stabbed him with a screwdriver-type device," Sforza wrote in narrative of Lemire's statement to him. "The (victim) stated that during this fight, he was fighting for his life because he had been stabbed so many times in the chest area. The (victim) stated that he grabbed the lid of the toilet to defend himself and turned over onto his stomach, at which time he was stabbed several times in the back by (Labarge)."
Asked what Bieniecki was doing during the altercation, Lemire stated, "... he thought that she was helping (Labarge) by holding him down by the ankles."
It was that statement that led authorities to charge Bieniecki with being an active participant in the stabbing.
When confronted with Lemire's statement, Bieniecki said she didn't hold him down, according to Sforza's report in court documents.
"She stated that she was trying to pull (Labarge) off (the victim), and maybe had grabbed (the victim's) leg during the assault," Sforza wrote in his report.
During the additional interview with police, Bieniecki also confessed that there was no third man named "Mike" who she and Labarge claimed had stabbed Lemire and then fled into the salt marsh. Their false claim made on Sunday morning caused Salisbury police to search the area, calling in a helicopter, two K-9 units, and the assistance of police from the state police, Amesbury, Seabrook and Newburyport.
At their dangerousness hearings Friday, a judge will determine if Bieniecki and Labarge will be granted bail or kept in jail without bail because their freedom presents a danger to the public.