A North Carolina man who recently arrived in the Lehigh Valley visited a downtown Bethlehem bar, agreed to give another man a ride home and while heading to a place to land some drugs stabbed the man twice in a dispute over a cell phone, according to court records.
The suspect, Thomas William Roof, 34, admitted to police that he stabbed Michael Rivera, who suffered a collapsed lung and had to have part of his small intestines removed. Rivera was “in recovery,” the records say. Police had not been able to interview Rivera.
Police encountered Roof early Saturday when he allegedly drove the wrong way on Linden Street near Liberty High School. He was driving a blue Kia Sportage with a North Carolina license plate. An officer noticed Roof had a badly cut right index finger and saw a folding knife that was open and lying on the passenger seat. Roof also appeared to be drunk, the records say.
A criminal complaint gives the following details:
Police stopped Roof around 3:30 a.m. after noticing the wrong-way driving. His cut finger “was bleeding a lot.” Paramedics took Roof to St. Luke’s Hospital-Fountain Hill. At the hospital, he refused a police officer’s request to take a blood-alcohol test.
While officers were still at the traffic stop, the dispatch center said it just got a call from 211 E. Ettwein St. The caller said her son – Rivera – had just come home and said he had been stabbed. He then collapsed on the floor. He was taken to a Lehigh Valley Hospital – the records don’t say which one – and immediately taken into surgery.
Officers at the scene realized that Roof – with his cut finger and the open knife on the passenger seat – may have been involved in the stabbing.
Roof was taken to police headquarters about 6 a.m. and agreed to talk to police. He said he is from North Carolina and has been in the area for a week, living at a motel on Christian Spring Road in Bethlehem Township. He said he was drinking in his room and decided to go to a bar to meet people.
He entered the 40 Below Nightclub and Lounge, 40 W. Broad St., and began talking to Rivera, who asked him if he could give him a ride home. Roof agreed. While driving, the subject of drugs came up. Roof asked Rivera if he knew of a place to get some. Rivera said “he knew of a place,” Roof said, and asked to use Roof’s cell phone.
The two exchanged the phone back and forth with Rivera also calling his ex-girlfriend. Roof and Rivera argued about the phone, and Roof stopped the car. They both got out.
Roof said Rivera threw the phone at him, hitting him in the head. Rivera “reached toward his torso area and pulled out an object but [Roof] was not sure what it was.” Rivera swung at Roof, who blocked the swinging motion and reached into his own pocket and pulled out his folding knife.
He said Rivera was lunging toward him so he opened the knife and stabbed Rivera once in the abdominal area and again his left side rib area.
Roof was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, DUI and a violation of one-way roadways and rotary traffic islands laws. He was arraigned later Saturday by on-duty District Judge Diane Marakovits of Northampton and committed to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $150,000 bail.
The above arrest information was supplied by District Judge Diane Marakovits' office. It does not indicate a conviction.