Instead of being in a city courtroom for a scheduled paternity dispute yesterday, a city police officer found himself in Baltimore County District Court, where bail was set at $750,000 on charges that he murdered the child's mother.
Dressed in the navy blue jumpsuit of the Baltimore County jail, Sgt. James A. Kulbicki, 36, of the city's Northwestern District, stared blankly beyond a horde of reporters and cameras after the brief bail review, ignoring shouted questions.
He was arrested Tuesday night on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Gina Marie Nueslein, 22, of the 3300 block of Ramona Ave. Her body was found Sunday morning in a remote area of Gunpowder Falls State Park. She had been shot in the head.
Her family said they feared the worst when Ms. Nueslein failed to appear at work Saturday. Police said she had told several people the defendant probably would kill her.
Henry L. Belsky, who represented Sergeant Kulbicki at yesterday's bail hearing, said he doubted his client would make bail because the judge barred him from using his house or rental properties as collateral. Sergeant Kulbicki would have to pay $75,000 in cash to make bail.
The sergeant's mother, brother, wife and two children attended the hearing, Mr. Belsky said, emphasizing, "His wife stands behind him."
The sergeant has no criminal record and strong community roots, the defense attorney said, and after nine years as a police officer, will have to be isolated from other jail inmates for his safety.
While Judge Lawrence R. Daniels characterized the case as "a crime of passion," Mr. Belsky called it a circumstantial case and said the sergeant needs to be free to conduct his own investigation for his defense.
Assistant State's Attorney S. Ann Brobst opposed any bail, given the strength of the state's case, but later said it was "a just decision." Her office usually seeks the death penalty in cases with aggravating circumstances such as multiple victims, she said. Domestic violence cases usually don't have those circumstances, she said.
Also yesterday, members of Ms. Nueslein's family waited in Baltimore Circuit Court for the scheduled hearing in her paternity suit. Judge John Carroll Byrnes postponed the case until Feb. 11. Steven Vogelhut Jr., who represented Sergeant Kulbicki, had asked for an indefinite postponement.
The child, 16-month-old Michael Joseph Nueslein, is in the temporary custody of his maternal grandparents, Joseph Charles Nueslein III and Geraldine Lidia Nueslein, under an order Baltimore Circuit Judge Andre M. Davis issued Tuesday. A permanent custody hearing is scheduled for Feb. 4.
According to court papers attorney Mary Elizabeth Peitersen filed for the Nuesleins, Sergeant Kulbicki had provided "absolutely no financial support" to the child since his birth.
Mr. Nueslein, 47, a driver for Smith Kline Beecham Laboratories in Owings Mills, according to the court papers, and Mrs. Nueslein, 44, a homemaker, have been married for more than 25 years. They shared their home on Ramona Avenue with their grandson and his mother.