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Charges: Mother, son shaved heads, ditched car to evade arrest after Fond du Lac homicide

A 38-year-old woman was arraigned Monday for allegedly driving her son, a homicide suspect, across the state and concealing his whereabouts for more than week.

Joseph James Fohrenkam.jpg
Joseph James Fohrenkam
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A Brevator Township woman allegedly admitted to investigators that she sought to "protect and hide" her 18-year-old son after he fatally shot his friend on the Fond du Lac Reservation in late December.

Little Fawn Fohrenkam, 38, is charged with driving Joseph James Fohrenkam across the state and harboring him inside an apartment in a bid to evade arrest for the death of Joseph James Peterson.

Peterson, 16, of the Cloquet area, was fatally shot Dec. 28 while sitting in the back seat of a pickup truck outside the Fohrenkams' residence, 3609 Giiniw Road. According to court documents, witnesses told police that Peterson was among five young people drinking alcohol in the vehicle when Joseph Fohrenkam suddenly shot him, apparently by accident, while "showing off" his pistol.

PREVIOUSLY: 16-year-old shot, killed on Fond du Lac Reservation

One member of the group called 911, but no one remained on the premises by the time members of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and Fond du Lac Police Department arrived on scene around 1:30 a.m., according to court documents. Only Peterson was found in the vehicle, with a fatal gunshot wound below his left eye.


Fond du Lac homicide locator Fohrenkam/Peterson December 2020
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

The other witnesses were later located and interviewed by investigators, who learned that Joseph Fohrenkam was sitting in the front driver's seat at the time of the shooting, documents state. As the group consumed brandy, Fohrenkam allegedly started waving the firearm around, "pointing the gun at everyone in the truck (and) messing around."

A criminal complaint indicates that the witnesses were intoxicated and did not all clearly observe what led up to the gunshot. But one stated that Fohrenkam may have accidentally bumped the center console while putting the gun away, causing it to discharge and strike Peterson.

PREVIOUSLY: Witnesses recount shooting that killed 16-year-old on Fond du Lac Reservation One witness told police Joseph Fohrenkam was "showing off" his pistol while a group of five were sitting in a truck drinking alcohol.
Court documents state that Joseph and Little Fawn Fohrenkam could be heard arguing with each other in the background of the 911 call. The other witnesses were allegedly directed to leave the residence before police arrived.

Little Fawn Fohrenkam.jpg
Littlefawn Fohrenkam

The Fohrenkams were on the run for more than a week before they were located Wednesday in Mahnomen, Minnesota. According to a complaint filed Monday, they were found in an apartment building adjacent to White Earth Tribal and Community College.


Authorities did not say who the apartment belongs to, nor did they elaborate on how the mother and son were located. When approached by Mahnomen County deputies, Little Fawn Fohrenkam allegedly provided a false name, and Joseph Fohrenkam was found concealed within a couch.

The complaint states that both had shaved their heads to alter their appearance. In a statement, Little Fawn Fohrenkam allegedly admitted to driving her son away from the shooting scene and then ditching her car to hide their whereabouts.

She was arraigned Monday in State District Court in Duluth on a felony charge of aiding an offender to avoid arrest. Senior Judge Mark Munger set bail at $30,000.

Joseph Forenkam was arraigned Friday on a charge of second-degree manslaughter . He remains jailed on $400,000 bail.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or
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