Stanislaus County prosecutors on Thursday filed a murder charge against a man accused of attacking another man with a cement brick outside a west Modesto home five months ago.
Larry Bland, 52, was arrested in late May on suspicion of assault. Prosecutors say Bland hit Norman Bland, 47, in the head with the brick. Norman Bland was in a coma and in hospice care on Sept. 5, when he died.
Police and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s office, in court documents, refer to them as cousins. Friends and family members have insisted they are not.
Larry Bland returned to Stanislaus Superior Court Thursday, after the District Attorney’s Office filed an amended criminal complaint. Along with the murder charge, the defendant faces a charge of assault with a deadly weapon — the brick — in connection with the death.
The murder and assault charges include enhancements for allegedly using the brick, fracturing Norman Bland’s skull, and causing him to become comatose due to a brain injury, according to the criminal complaint.
The defendant also is accused of attacking two other men, who had been drinking with him and Norman Bland on the evening of the incident. Larry Bland has been charged with felony assault likely to cause great bodily injury and misdemeanor battery in the alleged assault on the two other men. The assault charge includes an enhancement for allegedly knocking that man unconscious.
Larry Bland pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday and denied the enhancements. Superior Court Shawn Bessey increased Bland’s bail to $2 million. He remained in custody Friday at the Stanislaus County Jail.
Prosecutors on Sept. 9 — after learning of Norman Bland’s death — filed a motion asking the court to postpone a preliminary hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence for Larry Bland to stand trial. That filed motion contained details from witnesses who spoke to Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies.
The alleged attack occurred about 5 p.m. May 4 just outside a home on Figaro Avenue. The deputies responded to a report of three assault victims.
Witnesses told deputies that the defendant and the three alleged victims had been drinking alcohol at a picnic table for about an hour. Larry Bland suddenly became upset and began yelling at one of the victims. Prosecutors said the defendant then punched that man in the face, knocking him unconscious.
The defendant then shoved the other man, pushing him backward and causing him to stumble over a planter box, according to the filed motion. That victim fell to the ground, producing a scrape on his left arm about 9 inches long.
Prosecutors said the defendant then grabbed the brick and hit Norman Bland’s head. Larry Bland then left in a car that he flagged down, before heading west. Larry Bland was booked at the county jail on May 28.
This week, Judge Bessey scheduled Bland to return to court Oct. 21 for a pretrial hearing. The defendant’s preliminary hearing has not been rescheduled.
The District Attorney’s Office has filed charges against Bland for allegedly attacking other relatives two other times in the past year. He was accused of attacking a cousin with a sword and attacking his brother with a knife. Charges in both of those criminal cases were later dropped. In one of those cases, prosecutors cited a “lack of witness.”