A U.S. Marine combat veteran who told police that he left his home two years ago hunting for someone to kill testified in his own defense Tuesday, describing a secret government agency "Agent Orange," nanobots used on Marines as mind control, multiple head injuries and his treatment for PTSD through Veterans Affairs.
Mikhail Schmidt, 33, is accused of stabbing to death construction worker Jacob Bravo, 27, at an Oceanside construction job site in March 2017. The men had not met prior to the attack.
He told jurors “Agent Orange,” a counter-terrorist government agency, hired him in the hours before the killing and directed him to select Bravo as a target.
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"That night, Agent Orange, they went and activated me," he said, discussing nanobots that he believes were injected in him during boot camp that can perform mind control.
Schmidt testified the day after jurors saw a video in which he told law enforcement officials that he "craved the taste of blood" before the attack.
"I’ve needed it," Schmidt can be heard in the video recorded after his arrest.
On the stand, Schmidt denied there was any truth to that statement and admitted he's been kicking himself for two years for saying that to a detective.
"In my head it doesn't feel like this whole thing was real. It still doesn't feel real," he testified. "So I said the first thing that came to my head was 'Want to taste blood again' which you hear in a "Rambo" movie or something."
Jurors heard Schmidt describe his job as a reconnaissance sniper in the U.S. Marine Corps after he graduated high school and had spent some time in community college.
He was stationed in Okinawa and then deployed to Iraq for seven months where he re-enlisted in 2008.
"I was lead Humvee and we hit an IED and I was knocked unconscious," he said. "Also during that deployment in 2008, we were doing more jump operations during training in Iraq and my parachute failed to open."
He said his backup parachute opened too late and he struck a building.
"I was knocked out again," he said.
He recalled several traumatic events during his military service including a sniper assignment that ultimately involved a child in Iraq and searching for bodies after a tsunami in southeast Asia.
His last assignment was as a Marine Combat Instructor with the Infantry Training Battalion-West at Camp Pendleton.
He was honorably discharged in August 2013 as a Staff Sgt. E-6 after he had a "falling out" with his chain of command, he said.
He began going to the VA in 2014 and he was diagnosed with PTSD and listed as 80 percent disabled, Schmidt testified.
A neurologist also testified Tuesday, telling jurors about a scan of the defendant's brain that showed abnormalities consistent with both PTSD and alcoholism.
In cross-examination, prosecutors pointed out several times that Schmidt failed to tell the truth to military officials or law enforcement authorities.
They also asked the defendant to demonstrate how he killed Jacob Bravo.
Nicknamed "The Hammer" as a linebacker in high school, Schmidt told the jurors that he had "a lot" of concussions while playing football.
Detectives investigating Bravo's killing were led to Schmidt after he told his supervisor about the killing at the triathlon training and gear shop, where Schmidt worked at the time, according to prosecutors. That conversation is one Schmidt told police he regrets.
“That was my biggest downfall,” he told detectives. “I needed recognition.”
In a video showing Schmidt alone in an interrogation room, he initially appeared restless, looking in the camera and bursting into laughter. During questioning he cracked jokes and denied any involvement in the murder.
Left alone during a break in questioning, Schmidt’s entire demeanor shifted. He slumped over.
As the video showed, he whispered, “I’m sorry,” before saying, “I want it on the record -- I love my wife, I love my dogs, I’m ready to talk. Let’s do this,” the video showed.
“I don’t know where it came from. I honestly don’t know what came over me. I left my house with the intention to do harm," he added.
The prosecution drew attention to Schmidt’s lack of remorse for the victim during the video. In it, Schmidt told detectives he chose his victim at random.
“There was no rhyme or reason behind why I chose him,” said Schmidt in the video. “Lately I’ve craved the taste of blood. I’ve needed it."
While testifiying, Schmidt also appeared to be restless and nervous. He smiled several times and even openly laughed while trying to answer questions about his work history.
He admitted to alcohol and drug use after he left the U.S. Marine Corps and described disturbing thoughts of attempting to kill his wife and the world closing in.
"It's like the world slows down and I start getting really bad tunnel vision. It starts getting smaller, and smaller and smaller, looking through a little pinhole," he said.
Testimony was stopped for a lunch break. Check back later today for updates to this developing story.