SEATTLE - Prosecutors said a woman is behind a case that includes torture, psychic readings, rare coins and ultimately the slaying of a 70-year-old Seattle man.
Brenda Nicholas has a long criminal history including 50 counts of first-degree theft. Nicholas is accused of taking more than $1 million from an 85-year-old woman.
But now she is also charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of 70-year-old Francis Fleming.
Police said Charles Jungbluth, 51, and Gilda Ramirez, 49, tortured Fleming in his apartment, stabbed him, slit his throat and stole his valuable collection of coins. They are also charged in the case. But prosecutors said Nicholas was the brains behind the plan that led to the victim’s death.
“She was the mastermind behind murdering 70-year-old Francis Fleming in order to steal from him,” said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Carla Carlstrom in King County court on Thursday.
Fleming lived at the Four Freedoms House in North Seattle when he was killed last December.
Charging documents said Nicholas befriended a woman who used to live there, and through that woman, met Fleming and became aware of his rare coin collection. Prosecutors said it was that coin collection that led to Fleming’s slaying.
Police said Fleming was nearly decapitated and there were signs he'd been tortured.
After his death on Dec. 8, Fleming's friends said he loved to show off the coin collection, which was insured for $60,000.
Prosecutors said Nicholas preyed on senior citizens, at times claiming to be psychic. She would gain their trust and then convince them to let her handle their money, prosecutors said.
Judith Perkins came to court Thursday to see Nicholas in person. She told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Michelle Millman her healthy, 60-year-old brother-in-law rented a home to Nicholas last year, and within a few weeks he had a stroke and was dead.
“My brother-in-law trusted her. I don’t know if she had anything to do with his death but I spent a year looking into it,” said Perkins.
Nicholas has not been charged in connection with that death.
She pleaded not guilty to murder Thursday.
If convicted, she could be sentenced to about 40 years in prison.