May 23, 2018
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Lewiston attorneys withdraw as defense for man accused of attempted murder

Amber Waterman | Sun Journal
Amber Waterman | Sun Journal
Cleveland Cruthirds listens to Assistant District Attorney Patricia Reynolds Regan list bail conditions sought for Cruthirds at Lewiston District Court on Wednesday.
By Chris Williams, Sun Journal

AUBURN, Maine — The lawyers for a Lewiston man who was scheduled Monday to stand trial on aggravated attempted murder and other charges abruptly withdrew from his case.

It was the second time since Cleveland O. Cruthirds, 26, was indicted in connection with the stabbing of his girlfriend that his court-appointed legal representative has begged off his case.

Donald Hornblower and David Van Dyke, Lewiston attorneys, motioned Monday morning to withdraw as Cruthirds’ attorneys.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis, who had stacked trial documents in neat piles on a table in the courtroom, objected to the defense motion to continue the four-day trial.

Matulis said the delay would be prejudicial to the state. He said prosecutors had prepared for trial starting Monday, including several witnesses expected to testify. A jury was picked and waiting to be seated in the courtroom.

A judge granted the motion for the attorneys to withdraw and for the continuation of the trial. It likely won’t be rescheduled until next year, a clerk said.

The jury was sent home.

Cruthirds remains in jail.

A trial had been scheduled for July, but was continued after a court-appointed attorney for Cruthirds had filed a motion to withdraw.

James Howaniec had written in his motion that it was “due to a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.”

Cruthirds was indicted by an Androscoggin County grand jury earlier this year on charges of elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault and burglary, all in connection with the December stabbing of his sometime-girlfriend Naomi Swift, 22.

She was interviewed by the Sun Journal after her assault while still in her hospital bed. She was wrapped in bandages and showed long lines of stitches.

She recalled the assault that left her deaf in one ear and unable to lift her right arm. One of her lungs had been nicked and she suffered cranial nerve damage. Swift survived stab wounds to her arms, abdomen, face and head.

She said she had been sitting in her Blake Street apartment with another woman when Cruthirds broke down the door to her apartment and to her bedroom. He was in a rage because she had been talking on the phone to her husband, who was prison, she said.

He called her a “bitch” and told her she was “dead,” she said.

According to a police affidavit, Cruthirds was also mad because Swift had been talking to her ex-boyfriend online. In a 911 call, Cruthirds can be heard shouting, “You cheated on me” as Swift tried to explain her situation to an emergency dispatcher.

Swift said she had only known Cruthirds about three months at the time of the attack.

She said Cruthirds grabbed a knife from the kitchen and jumped on top of her, stabbing her an estimated 27 times as she begged him to stop.

A short time later, officers found him walking along Horton Street. Police said they found blood on his clothing and small cuts on his hands.

While awaiting trial in Androscoggin County Jail, Cruthirds planned an escape, jail officials said. Officers said they found evidence of preparations for a jailbreak, including a broken window that Cruthirds and another prisoner had intended to use as an escape route. Cruthirds was transported to Maine State Prison in Warren where his bail was set at $250,000 cash or $1 million in property.

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