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1 charged, 1 sought in downtown Duluth death

Duluth police haven't determined a motive, but believe two men played roles in the stabbing death of 28-year-old Joshua Eric Olson in a downtown apartment early Friday.

Joshua Lee Littlewolf
On Tuesday, May 1, 2012, a warrant was issued charging Joshua Lee Littlewolf, 41, with intentional second-degree murder and second-degree assault in Josh Olson's death. (Photo courtesy of St. Louis County)

Duluth police haven't determined a motive, but believe two men played roles in the stabbing death of 28-year-old Joshua Eric Olson in a downtown apartment early Friday.

Nakota James Benjamin, 37, of Duluth was arraigned Tuesday in State District Court on a charge of intentional second-degree murder in the death of Olson, whom his family refers to as Defoe-Olson.

An arrest warrant also was issued Tuesday charging Joshua Lee Littlewolf, 41, address unknown, with intentional second-degree murder and second-degree assault in Olson's death.

Olson died from a single knife wound to his neck, police said.

"We have probable cause to believe that both Nakota Benjamin, who was charged today, and Joshua Littlewolf had some role to play in the murder of Joshua Eric Olson," said Deputy Police Chief Robin Roeser during an afternoon news conference at the Public Safety Building on Arlington Avenue. Roeser said he couldn't yet say which of the defendants stabbed Olson. He said police continued to investigate the incident and talk to witnesses.

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Police are seeking the public's help in locating Littlewolf. Anyone who has seen him is asked to call 911.

Another man who had been arrested with Benjamin on a preliminary charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder was released from the St. Louis County Jail on Tuesday but police said he remained a "person of interest."

According to the criminal complaint, Benjamin called 911 at 8:22 a.m. Friday and reported that he had found the victim's body in Benjamin's residence in the Frances Skinner Apartments, 102 E. First St.

Benjamin said he found Olson covered in blood and that the victim had possibly cut himself. He said there was a knife by the body and that he didn't do the stabbing. Police said Benjamin was significantly intoxicated, his speech was slurred and he changed his story several times when questioned.

One witness said she saw Benjamin go into the kitchen, rustle through drawers and return with a knife in each hand. She said the blades were about 6 inches long and she saw Benjamin attack Olson.

Benjamin's criminal record includes two open Pine County cases for assault and disorderly conduct and a trespassing case in Duluth. Defense attorney Keith Shaw told the court that Benjamin is the father of three children ages 3, 9 and 12. Two live in Duluth and one in Carlton, he said.

Littlewolf has 23 criminal cases filed against him in eight Minnesota counties, including convictions for robbery, assault and assault with a dangerous weapon.

St. Louis County prosecutor Nathaniel Stumme told Judge Sally Tarnowski that the facts of the crime were "egregious and shocking," He asked the court to set bail at $400,000. Stumme said there was a significant risk that Benjamin would attempt to flee and that he was a public safety risk. Tarnowski set bail at $400,000.

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Benjamin told police that he returned to his apartment about 11 p.m. Thursday and woke up to find the dead body. He said he attempted to wake Olson by touching him and he felt cold. He said he also kicked the victim and he felt frozen.

A surveillance video captured Benjamin leaving the apartment at 3:07 a.m. Friday carrying a backpack. The backpack has not been found.

A woman witness told police that Benjamin and Littlewolf stabbed Olson and that Littlewolf tried to keep her from getting between Benjamin and Olson during the stabbing. Another man who witnessed the fight told police that Littlewolf stabbed Olson. One woman said Littlewolf cut her hand with a knife after Olson was stabbed.

Police are attempting to piece the accounts together.

"One of the things we're still trying to answer is as far as motive is what may have led to the string of events that caused the death of Josh Olson," Roeser said. "We're still trying to figure and piece together an actual motive so we're still working on that right now. There is nothing that's jumping out that's saying it happened because of this."

The victim was an enrolled member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and was a lifelong resident of the Central Hillside. He played football for Duluth Central. He worked in construction and was a tattoo artist. He is survived by four children and their mother, as well as his father, Darrell, three sisters and two brothers, among others.

Roeser said the victim and defendants knew each other. He said that the investigation is continuing but that Littlewolf is the only suspect police are looking for. It is the first homicide in Duluth since May 2010.

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Nakota James Benjamin

Related Topics: CRIME
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