By Joe Gorman
Marion Bugdal, who was shot to death July 6, asked friends if he could make a pipe he found into a gun about an hour before police believe he was killed.
Gary Curtis, who lives on McHenry Street, said he saw Bugdal, 52, walk past his home toward Bennington Avenue, where Bugdal lived, carrying a pipe he had found.
Curtis said Bugdal had been complaining about a man who had been bothering him recently and that the man had robbed and beaten him.
Bugdal saw Curtis in his yard and they chatted, as Curtis and his wife, Carrie, said they often did. Bugdal had the pipe and showed it to Curtis.
“He was wondering if he could make a gun out of it,” Gary Curtis told a Vindicator reporter at Curtis’ kitchen table one day last week.
In the end, Gary Curtis said Bugdal decided not to make a gun out of the pipe because he was afraid it might blow up in his hands. But police said Bugdal used the pipe about an hour later to confront Alex New, 20, who had broken into his home because New thought Bugdal had gold bars in the dwelling.
The couple said Bugdal talked frequently about being harassed by New and predicted something bad would happen to him.
“He knew exactly what would happen to him,” Carrie Curtis said.
Police have accused New of shooting Bugdal several times and fleeing. Bugdal’s body was not discovered until July 9 by a friend in the kitchen of Bugdal’s East Side home.
Arrested the same day was New, along with Johnnathen Figueroa, 20, and Fred Nolasco, 23. All three are expected to be arraigned in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court today on aggravated-murder charges in the death. They have been in the county jail on $1 million bond each since their arraignments in municipal court.
Bugdal walked by the Curtis home regularly from his home on the way downtown, where he received most of his meals in the two soup kitchens and also gave blood frequently. Gary Curtis and his wife befriended Bugdal because they often would see him walking by, at first chatting in the yard, but Gary Curtis sometimes would give Bugdal rides or help him haul scrap out of his home.
The couple said Bugdal told them several times that New had been tormenting him in the weeks before he died, and they were upset when they learned of his death. They said they did not want to blame police, but they added they have a lot of questions about how Bugdal could make several complaints against New and yet New was never charged with a crime until Bugdal was killed.
In fact, it was those reports that led police to investigate New in the first place, police said.
Bugdal had spoken twice to a Vindicator reporter before he died, including the day before he died, saying he could not get the police to take his complaints seriously.
Police said, however, they did the best they could to investigate the reports Bugdal made, sending a detective to his home several times. Bugdal, however, was never there when police came, and he also did not have a phone, which made it hard to follow up on the complaints.
His house had holes in the roof and had sustained damage in a fire July 2 from which Bugdal suffered burns on his hands and face.
Gary Curtis said he asked Bugdal why New would be tormenting him, but Bugdal could never give a good answer.
“It was the same stories all the time,” Gary Curtis said. Once, Gary Curtis gave Bugdal a ride downtown and he encountered New there, and Bugdal jumped back in Curtis’ truck, Gary Curtis said.
The couple said it was obvious Bugdal had some mental issues, based on his appearance and the appearance of his home, but they said they were still saddened to hear of his death because he genuinely was a nice man.
“He was a great guy – so sweet, very respectful,” Carrie Curtis said. “They put that guy through all that and he complained and complained and complained about it.
“Nobody was helping him. It seemed like everyone failed him.”