Crime & Courts

Neighbor describes events after fatal Christmas Eve stabbing

Police are looking into the circumstances surrounding the fatal stabbing of a 32-year-old man at this house near Maple and West late on the evening of Christmas Eve. The victim, identified Friday as Steven D. Manuel, went to a neighbor's house in the 400 block of South Knight shortly after 11:30 p.m. and asked them to call for help, Lt. Jeff Gilmore said. He had been stabbed several times and “was covered in blood,” Gilmore said. Manuel was taken to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, where he was pronounced dead at 12:12 a.m. on Christmas Day.
Police are looking into the circumstances surrounding the fatal stabbing of a 32-year-old man at this house near Maple and West late on the evening of Christmas Eve. The victim, identified Friday as Steven D. Manuel, went to a neighbor's house in the 400 block of South Knight shortly after 11:30 p.m. and asked them to call for help, Lt. Jeff Gilmore said. He had been stabbed several times and “was covered in blood,” Gilmore said. Manuel was taken to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, where he was pronounced dead at 12:12 a.m. on Christmas Day. The Wichita Eagle

When the doorbell rang shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve, Jim Ormerod figured it was his oldest grandson coming across the street to play video games again.

He was listening to Joel Osteen preach, so he didn’t hurry to the door of his house in the 400 block of South Knight, near Maple and West Street. It rang again.

Instead of his grandson on the side patio of his house, Ormerod found his neighbor, Steven D. Manuel, lying next to the door, covered in blood, struggling to breathe and wearing only his underwear.

A few feet behind him, next to a horizontal plant box holding only dark soil on this winter’s night, stood a teenage boy wearing pants but no shirt.

“It was a mess,” Ormerod said, looking down at the concrete in front of the side door to his house. “All the blood, I could tell he was going to die. There wasn’t a damn thing I could have done for him. I was frantic.”

The boy asked him to call 911. Ormerod said the boy told him that he had defended himself against Manuel.

Ormerod stepped inside and dialed 911, but was so sickened by what he had seen that a son had to take over the conversation with dispatchers. Police arrived and immediately called for an ambulance.

Manuel was taken to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, where he was pronounced dead at 12:12 a.m. on Christmas Day.

By the time Ormerod stepped back outside, Manuel had stopped moving. The boy had walked to the fence separating the front yard from the driveway and was talking to Ormerod’s wife and other son.

“He wasn’t running,” Ormerod said of the boy. “He waited for the police officers.”

The stabbing occurred inside the house next door, Lt. Jeff Gilmore said Friday.

“There was some type of altercation inside the residence of the victim, which resulted in the victim being stabbed multiple times,” Gilmore said.

Manuel had lived there with roommates for the past year or two, Ormerod said, but he had never seen the boy before.

The boy was booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder, records show. Arrest records show he is 16.

A police document on the incident indicates Manuel was stabbed multiple times in the chest and back. Ormerod called them “gashes.”

Investigators plan to talk to the boy further, police officials said Friday. The death raises Wichita’s homicide total for 2014 to 26, Gilmore said.

Manuel has been on the KBI sex offender registry since 2011 following his conviction in Sedgwick County for sexual exploitation of a child, records show. He was sentenced to 36 months of probation following completion of a residential treatment program.

He was ordered to have no unsupervised contact with children under the age of 16 and no access to the Internet unless it was for employment.

“I’m thankful to God my grandkids weren’t here,” Ormerod said. “That was just horrendous. There was blood all over here. It was an ungodly sight. It was like being in a war zone.”

Normally, the Ormerods play host to family and open gifts on Christmas Day. For some reason, he said, they did it on Christmas Eve this year.

Now he’s grateful they did. That means the children were gone by the time of the stabbing.

Instead of basking in the glow of a Christmas morning, Ormerod spent the predawn hours hosing down the siding and the patio concrete in an effort to wash away anything the fire department had missed when a crew came by at about 5 a.m.

But the noonday sun showed him a spot or two that he had missed.

“It kind of ruined our Christmas,” he said, his voice draped with fatigue. “It’s like being in a nightmare.”

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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