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Murder Case Dismissed in Stabbing of Fireman

Murder charges were dismissed on a legal technicality Thursday against two men accused in the November, 1984, stabbing death of an off-duty Los Angeles city firefighter who was working at his Van Nuys printing shop.

Prosecutors said they will appeal the dismissal of charges against one suspect but a re-evaluation of the case led them to conclude that there is insufficient evidence to proceed against the other man, Robert Alan Herbst.

Herbst, 38, who had been accused of soliciting the murder, was released after the ruling.

Prosecutors said they will appeal the ruling relating to Charles Keith Biddle, who was accused of stabbing firefighter Jeff Collins, 38. Biddle, 32, is expected to be released pending the appeal.

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Van Nuys Superior Court Judge James A. Albracht granted a defense motion for a dismissal of the charges because the preliminary hearing was held in two segments, several weeks apart. Such a break in court proceedings is unlawful unless the defendants specifically waive their right to a continuous preliminary hearing.

The men had been charged with the special-circumstance allegation of murder for hire, which would have made them eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

Police suspected Herbst of hiring Biddle to kill Collins over a business deal in which Collins allegedly paid Herbst $40,000 for silver bullion.


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