UPDATE: A charge of murder has been filed against Brenda Nicholas in the stabbing death of 70-year-old Navy veteran Francis Patrick Fleming in a seniors-oriented apartment building in Seattle's Bitter Lake neighborhood last year.
The charge was filed Tuesday, but announced Thursday by the King County Prosecutor's Office.
Nicholas and co-defendants Charles Jungbluth, 51, and Gilda Ramirez, 49, remain in the King County Jail on $2 million bail. Jungbluth was charged with murder in the case Aug. 22 in the Dec. 8, 2011, slaying of Fleming.
Ramirez was originally charged with murder, but has since pleaded guilty to robbery, burglary and trafficking in stolen property that could get her 57 to 99 months in prison.
Nicholas previously had been charged with more than 55 counts of theft and one count of unlawful possesion of a firearm. Police said Jungbluth and Ramirez both stated that Nicholas committed the murder with them, and police said the investigation into Nicholas' involvement is ongoing.
In the charging documents, King County prosecutors said Jungbluth and Ramirez had no known criminal history prior to the murder charge, but that Ramirez and Nicholas "are believed to be part of a loosely organized crime group known as the Romas ... that are known to earn their livelihood by committing financial crimes" against vulnerable adults.
Fleming, a war hero, was attacked and killed at the Four Freedoms senior apartments. After he was found slain in his apartment, police learned that his extensive, and rare, coin collection was also missing.
DNA evidence led police to the first suspect, who was arrested Aug. 16, 2012, by Snohomish County sheriff's deputies.
ORIGINAL STORY: Seniors who live in this Seattle apartment are still waiting for news of an arrest after a highly decorated war hero was murdered here Dec. 8, 2011.
Detectives said retired sailor Patrick Fleming put up a good fight against his attacker, but unfortunately, investigators said he took his last breath sometime between 7 and 9pm that evening. He was killed for his valuable coin collection.
Police need the public’s help in finding the person or persons who murdered Fleming.
"This is our room. Patrick painted it himself," Patrick's wife, Melba said. "This is his urn."
Melba met Patrick, a tough-looking Navy veteran 25 years ago. And he was a man who kept his apartment ship-shape.
Patrick was a two-time Purple Heart recipient and received Gold and Bronze Stars for bravery as a riverboat gunner after more than 200 combat patrols in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.
He survived shrapnel wounds from enemy rocket fire and is credited with knocking out an entire base with a 50-caliber machine gun. His death at the hands of a common criminal or criminals is a hard reality for his wife to accept.
"He fought for our country and he just died in a way that really sad,” she said. “I really miss him."
"He was laying on his bed, watching his TV in his pajamas when somebody came in and attacked him,” detective Cloyd Steiger of the Seattle Police Department. “It was obvious it was a blitz type of attack, a brutal attack and there is some evidence he was tortured a little bit."
Steiger said neighbors at the Four Freedoms House are understandably upset.
"That's a big facility with a lot of people in it and it's shocked it to its core, people are terrified in that building of this guy being murdered right amongst them," Steiger said.
Steiger said Patrick was targeted for his vast collection of mint-proof coin sets, presidential dollars and uncut sheets of U.S. currency which are worth about $60,0000. His two Purple Heart medals and Gold and Bronze Stars were also stolen; Purple Hearts are awarded to service members by the president.
“One of the things we found out is that he liked to talk to people about his coin collections. Everybody in the building knew he had them,” Steiger said. "This is his passion, collecting coins.”
Melba always worried Patrick's hobby might lead to trouble.
"I told him, ‘Why don't you put those coins in the safety deposit box at the bank?’ He said, ‘Well, if they come here, they are my enemies’,” she said.
More than once he told Melba his coins would only be taken over his dead body. “I will snap, they can kill me first before they can get my coins," he told her.
He was as good as his word -- crime scene evidence clearly indicates Patrick put up a fight, but the robber was armed and Patrick wasn't. Now, police are tracking his stolen property.
"Somebody may have bought coins or sheets of U.S. currency and didn't know they were stolen, and either they belonged to a coin shop or maybe they bought them off Craigslist or something like that,” Steiger said. “Maybe if they see this, it will tip their recollection and point us in the right direction."
Melba is still working up to taking Patrick’s ashes to Arlington National Cemetery to be laid to rest, but she's having a hard time saying goodbye with his killer still free.
“I hope people who see this video will help us find the criminals,” she said.
Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound is offering a cash reward for information that leads to the arrest of Patrick's killer.
If you trade or sell coins, take a look at our photo gallery that shows some of the coins and currency that were stolen from Patrick. Investigators hope somebody at a gold, coin or pawn shop remembers a seller coming in after December 8 with the coins and currency, or maybe someone bought them off Craigslist.
If you have any information that can help Seattle police solve Patrick Fleming’s murder, call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun