Addict admits to stabbing murder of Iraq War vet

First he told the police, then he told the judge, and now Nicholas Jeffrey Mangelli will be spending the rest of his life in prison for the methamphetamine robbery-murder of a Marine veteran from the Iraq War.

Mangelli admitted to going “ballistic” two years ago in the savage, drug-induced stabbing attack on Michael Allen Cole, a man he considered his friend, in order to steal video game equipment and some silver coins.

The 23-year-old Mangelli entered his guilty plea Monday in front of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael A. Savage. The plea came with no bargain for Mangelli. He had faced a maximum term of life without parole on the special circumstance allegations of killing in the course of robbery and burglary, and that is the sentence he will receive when he returns to Savage’s courtroom on Feb. 24.

“I think it was the right thing for him to do,” said Gregory Cole, the father of the 26-year-old who had been severely injured in a 2006 explosion in Iraq when the Humvee he was driving hit a roadside bomb. “I think the evidence is absolutely overwhelming and the outcome would have been the same no matter what he did. So not putting our family and his family through a trial, I think is commendable. I don’t think anybody else needs to be exposed to all of those pictures. I think it’s traumatizing.”

A neighbor found Michael Cole’s body around 11 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2012, in a back bedroom of his Citrus Heights home in the 6200 block of Westbrook Drive. According to testimony at Mangelli’s preliminary hearing last year, he had ingested methamphetamine and was looking for money when he went to Cole’s house and woke him up around 2 a.m.

“When I was doing the drugs, that’s all I thought about, was getting money, how to get money and how to get money, you know?” he told Citrus Heights police Detective Nicole Garing in an interview the day of the killing, according to testimony that was read into the record by Deputy District Attorney Robin Shakely.

The day before the killing, Mangelli said, he stole $20 from his mother and smoked opium before doing some Ecstasy. Then he said he hit up a friend for $80 and used it to buy some crystal meth, a few hours before he drove over to Cole’s house.

Mangelli said that during in his predawn visit, Cole opened a safe to show him some valuables. It was then, Mangelli said, that he began “thinking about how I would kill him, you know.” He said he thought about it for three hours, about how “I would take his stuff and pawn it.”

Around 6 a.m., Mangelli said, the two of them drove to a Safeway to buy more beer. When they returned to the house on Westbrook Drive, Cole opened his safe again. Seeing that Cole had a collection of swords and knives, Mangelli said he grabbed “a small little blade” and stabbed Cole in the back with it.

“So he turns around and knocks my glasses off, you know,” Mangelli told the detective. “I just went … ballistic. I just kept stabbing him and stabbing him.”

Garing asked him where he stabbed Cole.

“Everywhere,” Mangelli replied.

He estimated that he stabbed Cole 35 times. An autopsy showed that the actual number was 74, according to Shakely.

Mangelli said he then went home to retrieve his contact lenses, then returned to Westbrook Drive, where he loaded his car with Cole’s video games and consoles. He took the stolen materials to a game shop in Carmichael around 10:15 a.m. to sell them.

Cole, however, had been a customer at the store and employees knew they had sold him some of the games Mangelli brought in, such as an “Ultima” and a couple of Super Nintendo games. They called a co-owner of the shop, who then went to Cole’s house and searched it with a female neighbor, who found the body. The co-owner called the store and told them to stall Mangelli, which they did, until the police arrived and arrested him, detectives testified at the preliminary hearing.

In his interview with Garing, Mangelli said of Cole, “He was a friend of mine.” He added later in the interview, “I am so … sick and twisted.”

Shakely said in an interview that Mangelli, who had been working at the time of the killing as a seasonal employee at Macy’s, “came from a really good family that tried its best to help him with his drug problem. They’ve been nothing but honorable through this whole process.”

Within hours of the killing, Mangelli wrote letters of apology to Cole’s family members, according to Shakely.

The prosecutor said Mangelli’s lawyer, David W. Dratman, told her at a Jan. 3 trial readiness conference that his client was thinking about pleading guilty, with no strings attached. She said Dratman confirmed Mangelli’s decision in a later phone call, to give her time to notify Cole’s family so they could attend what was supposed to be a brief court appearance on Monday to confirm a trial date.

Dratman declined to discuss the case Tuesday, and Mangelli turned down an interview request at the downtown jail.

Gregory Cole, an environmental scientist, said he was struck at Monday’s hearing, when Mangelli pleaded guilty, at the similarities between his family and that of the victim. He said the hardest part of Monday’s court session was talking to Mangelli’s father and seeing him in as much pain as anybody.

“It’s like looking in the mirror,” Cole said.

Cole said he expects the Feb. 24 sentencing to be dramatic.

“The courtroom will be packed,” he said. “Mike had a lot of friends. We have a large family, and there are many, many Marines who will pay their respects, too.”