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Cedar Rapids Man Charged in Beating Death

CEDAR RAPIDS - His fiancée says it was self-defense, but Thursday's charge in the Linn District Court was first-degree murder.

Prosecutors say 25-year-old Christopher Schmidt beat 24-year-old Robert Nelson to death, apparently with a bar stool.

Prosecutors believe the motive for the murder was money. They say a fight between Nelson and Schmidt at Roosevelt Apartments last week led to Nelson's death. Court records show police found Schmidt's fingerprints on a bloody bar stool. He even admits he hit Nelson in the head with several stools, but Schmidt's fiancée says he was trying to protect himself.

"Rob came after him with a needle-nose pliers and said I'm not paying you. So, Chris punched him in the nose. Rob got back up, they had a conversation, and he came after him with needle-nose pliers again. Chris grabbed a bar stool, hit him, but when he left he was alive," says Helena Curl.

Curl says the fight broke out Thursday night because Nelson apparently owed money for car repairs. She says the two were friends, maybe even roommates at one time, but one of Nelson's co-workers says he never mentioned Schmidt.

"Rob told me he didn't have many friends up here. He had a few friends from school, maybe an old roommate, but he never mentioned anyone else he would hang out with," says Tom Galloway.

Schmidt's fiancée says she will stand by him, although the last day has been difficult.

"I have people coming past my house, taking pictures, and calling me a murderer's girlfriend. You know I'm devastated. I love the man. We've been together for two-and-a-half years," says Curl.

Curl hopes a claim of self-defense will help his case.

Schmidt's next court appearance is scheduled for next week.

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