Bouncer Gets Term of 26 Years to Life in Firefighter’s Slaying

Times Staff Writer

A former peep-show bouncer was sentenced Monday to 26 years to life in prison for fatally stabbing in 1984 an off-duty Los Angeles firefighter in Van Nuys.

A jury in October had convicted the bouncer, Charles Keith Biddle, 34, of first-degree murder in the slaying of Jeffrey Collins, 38, outside a printing shop Collins owned and operated.

Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Alan B. Haber on Monday refused requests by Biddle’s attorney, William M. Thornbury, to delay the sentencing and grant Biddle bail.

Biddle will be eligible for a parole hearing in about 11 years, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Diamond said.


Authorities linked Collins’ slaying to a dispute with Robert Herbst, a Van Nuys bookbinder. Police said Collins had paid Herbst $40,000 for silver bullion that Herbst never delivered.

Although Herbst was accused in 1984 of hiring Biddle to kill Collins, the murder charge was dropped because prosecutors said they had insufficient evidence.

According to testimony at the trial, Biddle stalked Collins for weeks before the killing. On the morning of Nov. 9, 1984, Biddle went to the firefighter’s print shop, and he and Collins went outside the rear door to talk, prosecutors said.

A shop employee testified that he heard Collins groan and stepped outside to see a struggle between his boss and Biddle, who was holding a knife. Collins died later at a hospital.


After Collins’ employees flagged down police, Biddle, who had fled, was arrested. He later led police to a bloody six-inch knife, authorities said.

Murder charges against Biddle were twice filed and twice dropped because of legal technicalities. His conviction stemmed from a third murder charge filed in March, 1986.

Collins, an Agoura resident, was an 11-year veteran of the Fire Department.

In a probation officer’s report, Biddle denied guilt and maintained that his rights were violated.


“I didn’t kill the victim. . . . It’s probably a mistake in identity,” the report quoted Biddle as saying. Biddle, who is appealing his conviction, was further quoted as saying, “The system isn’t protecting me. What can I do except fight it?”

Asked about leading police to the knife, Biddle said, “I don’t know if I did that or not,” according to the report.

The report, prepared by Probation Officer Barry J. Nidorf, said, “The cold-blooded nature of the present offense is equaled only by the defendant’s cold-blooded attitude.”