Man pleads not guilty to road-rage stabbing | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Man pleads not guilty to road-rage stabbing

Trina Kleist

John Hart / The Union, Grass Valley/ Timothy Brooks walks out of a courtroom in Auburn on Tuesday. Brooks, a Truckee resident, pleaded innocent to charges that he murdered Robert L. Ash in Tahoe City on Aug. 17.

AUBURN – A Truckee man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge he murdered a man in front of a Tahoe City bagel shop in a road-rage attack.

Despite an earlier ruling by a Placer County Superior Court judge, the county district attorney’s office on Monday filed a murder charge against Timothy G. Brooks, 25. The charge is an open count of murder with a special allegation of using a deadly weapon.

Brooks is accused of stabbing Robert L. Ash, 47, in the abdomen outside Syd’s Bagelry on Aug. 17. The Newcastle developer died that night in a Reno hospital.

The renewed murder charge did not satisfy an angry Mimi Ash, who said her husband’s death is a “black-and-white” case of first-degree murder. That charge requires prosecutors to prove the act was premeditated, while second-degree murder requires them to prove intent. The current charge leaves the degree open.

“We’ve got a weapon, a body, a plethora of witnesses, yet the guy gets out on bail on a manslaughter charge. It’s unbelievable,” said Mimi Ash, 39.

Brooks also is charged with carrying a concealed dagger.

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Judge Larry Gaddis set a trial date for Jan. 13; pre-trial motions will be heard Dec. 20.

The stabbing followed an incident in which Robert Ash, who was driving a recently purchased Aston Martin, allegedly passed Brooks and cut him off while they were both traveling on Highway 89 near Squaw Valley.

According to Brooks’ lawyer Marcus Topel, Brooks and his wife, who were in a Toyota 4-Runner, drove into Squaw Valley searching for Ash to learn his name. They continued on to Tahoe City, where Susanne Brooks spotted Ash’s car about a half-hour after the original incident.

Susanne Brooks ran over to Ash, who was eating a bagel and drinking coffee outside the bagelry. Topel has argued that Timothy Brooks followed, he and Ash got into an argument, Ash started a fistfight and Brooks pulled out his knife in self-defense.

Defense and prosecution disagree over who started the fight and whether Brooks tried to flee the scene. An off-duty Tuolumne County Sheriff’s deputy has testified he stopped Brooks as he was trying to leave, while a Placer County deputy said Brooks admitted to him he had stabbed Ash.

A county judge in Tahoe City on Oct. 25 reduced the original charge against Brooks to manslaughter and set bail at $250,000. Brooks remains free on bond.

“We reviewed the evidence and we felt the judge made the wrong call,” said Deputy District Attorney Christopher Cattran.

However, Topel said he would file a motion at the December hearing to again reduce the murder charge to something lesser, based on an alleged lack of evidence.

Peggy Ash Marraccini, of Sacramento, described her late brother as “a man with tons of character, charisma, always a smile, generous.

“To think that somebody could just come up and take a life with no regard, it’s not fair,” Marraccini said.

The Ashes, who were married for 22 years, operated several development companies based in Auburn, Mimi Ash said. Robert Ash, who grew up in Incline Village, had been working on projects in Truckee for the previous year and was spending a lot of time there before his death.

“He still is the love of my life,” said Mimi Ash, who is continuing with the businesses and their related projects.

Brooks and his wife, a German woman he married in May, appeared in court with their lawyers in the brief hearing Tuesday.

Topel has described Brooks as a University of California, Berkeley, graduate who was planning to attend graduate school in Monterey.