To the hundreds of people whose lives he has helped make better, Daniel Eugene Binick nearly qualifies for sainthood.
Active in the Roman Catholic Church, he has volunteered countless service hours to the needy and has worked as a chef in a center for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.Today, however, Binick who has been living in Murray under the name "Jerry LeBaeu" but whose friends just call him "Bear" is in the Salt Lake County Jail, wanted in the slaying of a bar owner 13 years ago in Baltimore, Md.
While spending some time last month in the monastery in Huntsville, Weber County, Binick decided to surrender to clear his name, said defense attorney Kendall P. Hatch.
Binick, who faces a fugitive review hearing May 18 before 5th Circuit Judge Philip K. Palmer, will maintain his innocence if extradited, Hatch said.
It was time for Binick to quit living under an alias and having to look over his shoulder all the time, said Binick's close friend, Jim Lombard.
Hatch, Lombard and others who know Binick are attempting to prevent authorities from extraditing him to Maryland. They've established the "Bear Legal Defense Fund" to pay the expenses of fighting extradition and for criminal defense should Binick be sent to Maryland.
The supporters took their first step Tuesday, when they planned to deliver a petition to Utah Gov. Norm Bangerter.
But a Bangerter aide said the governor may not be able to prevent the extradition because the U.S. Supreme Court last year upheld the authority of federal courts to force states to surrender fugitives.
Signed by about 180 people, the petition asks the governor to refuse to deliver Binick to Maryland prosecutors, who are in the process of obtaining a warrant from Maryland's governor.
"Jurisprudence explains incarceration has a two-fold purpose: rehabilitation and punishment," says the petition. "It is obvious that Mr. Binick does not need rehabilitation. To expose him to a prolonged, expensive trial is more punishment than he deserves."
The petition then lists several facts to show Binick's life in Utah during the past 12 years has been a clean and positive one.
A Vietnam War veteran, Binick is married, has two stepchildren who look up to him, is a devout Christian, cooks for transients Sunday mornings under the viaducts and has been accepted to one of the top chef schools in the country, according to the petition.
The accused hasn't received as much as a traffic ticket while living in Utah, the petition notes.
"It is apparent . . . that if all the citizens of Utah made a contribution to this state equal to (that) of Mr. Binick, we would have many fewer problems," the petition states.
Lombard, president of the Alano Club, a social gathering place for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, described Binick as a great friend and worker.
"He's never late, never absent and covers for people who call in sick. He's loved by a lot of people. He's helped a lot of people."
That help includes Binick's work in founding "Narcotics Anonymous," a support group similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.
In addition, Binick "willingly and lovingly prepares around-the-clock Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners at the (Alano) club for anyone who needs something to eat on those days," Lombard said.
For several months, Binick has been going to the monastery, where he met Father Emmanuel. After discussing the matter with the priest, Binick decided March 14 to turn himself in to the FBI, Lombard said.
Lombard said news of charges against Binick came as a total shock to Samantha LeBaeu, who married Binick 10 years ago and is trying to finish a nursing degree at Brigham Young University.
Binick, who grew up in a rough East Baltimore neighborhood, is accused of shooting bar owner Walter Seborowski, 52, in the back on March 5, 1975. The murder was well publicized because Seborowski was a World War II hero who escaped a prisoner-of-war camp.
Charges weren't filed against Binick until June 1976, 15 months later. Hatch doesn't believe that the state would have a very good case in a crime that occurred so long ago.
But Baltimore prosecutor Mark Cohen said the case is strong and he's confident Binick will be brought to justice. Maximum punishment for the charge is life in prison, he said.
"We have eyewitnesses and they are still around." Cohen said the murder case against Binick will be taken before a Baltimore grand jury within a week.
If Bangerter rejects Binick's petition, Hatch said he will try to pull political strings in Maryland to persuade that state's governor to halt prosecution against Binick.
Binick's supporters all believe he didn't commit the crime. Even if he did murder somebody, said Lombard, "he's already paid the price. He's led 13 years of flawless living."
Said Hatch, "Regardless of what may happen, his lifestyle will stand him in good stead."