[Spoilers] By DAN RICE, Staff Writer
The Fairbanks man accused of killing a taxicab driver pleaded no contest to a charge of second-degree murder Wednesday.
Jonathan Biederbeck, 21, faces as much as 50 years in prison for the death that occurred during a July 14 robbery attempt.
He entered the plea in exchange for state prosecutors dismissing a host of other felony and misdemeanor charges he faced in connection with the stabbing death of 53-year-old Michael Belknap.
The plea agreement binds Judge Mark Wood to assign a base sentence of 50 years. However, Wood can choose to assign a shorter prison term by designating some of the sentence as suspended time. Biederbeck is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 19.
He will be eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence. That means if Wood sentences Biederbeck to the maximum of 50 years in jail, he will be eligible for parole in 16 1/2 years, or when he is 38.
Appearing in orange jail garb with his public defender, Biederbeck said very little during Wednesday’s hearing, other than offering prompt replies to questions from Wood.
His no contest plea means the case will not go to trial as scheduled this month.
Biederbeck was charged with stabbing Belknap to death with a kitchen knife while the men struggled. Biederbeck, who was also charged with breaking into the Northland Aviation Building and stealing Cutco kitchen knives from a warehouse one week before the murder, called Yellow Cab for a ride early in the morning and was picked up by Belknap, according to a charging document.
Biederbeck admitted stabbing Belknap in the throat and chest during a struggle off Henderson Road that followed Biederbeck’s robbery attempt, the document stated.
One of the Cutco kitchen knives Biederbeck was accused of stealing was the suspected murder weapon.
Fairbanks Police Department officers first contacted Biederbeck when he called dispatch to report that he had been robbed and stabbed behind the Northgate Mall.
While investigating Biederbeck’s claim, which turned out to be false, police learned that Yellow Cab reported a missing driver, police said. Law enforcement later put the two reports together and arrested Biederbeck after discovering Belknap’s body on the side of the road near the intersection of Bluebird Avenue and Dome Road.
Alaska State Troopers reported that Biederbeck drove to that location and ditched the cab and Belknap’s body.
Prosecutors brought charges against Biederbeck in three different cases.
One case filed in connection with the day of the murder charged Biederbeck with one count each of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree vehicle theft as well as two counts each of tampering with physical evidence.
A separate case was filed in connection with the July 7 break-in and charged Biederbeck with two counts of second-degree burglary as well as one count each of second-degree theft and third-degree criminal mischief.
The last case accused Biederbeck of a misdemeanor crime of making a false report in connection with the erroneous story he told police.
Prosecutors agreed to dismiss all the charges but the second-degree murder count. Had he been convicted of the charge during a trial, Biederbeck could have faced a sentence of as much as 99 years in prison. [/Spoilers]
I’ve been meaning to post a few things about the trip to AK, but I haven’t yet. I’ll probably get to it sometime this weekend. I’ve got some photos to put online as well.