HIBBING — An August trial date has been scheduled for the Hibbing man accused of committing an execution-style murder along an Iron Range snowmobile trail in January.
Deshon Israel Bonnell, 18, pleaded not guilty Thursday to five felony charges in the shooting death of 33-year-old Joshua Robert Lavalley of Aurora. He faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Mark Starr scheduled the case to go before a jury Aug. 19.
Bonnell recently retained Jason Schellack, executive director of the Autism Advocacy Law Center in Minneapolis. The defense attorney notified the court that Bonnell would not challenge probable cause or raise any constitutional issues, simply demanding a speedy trial.
Bonnell in April was found competent to proceed in court, three months after he was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.
One of three defendants in the case, Bonnell faces charges of premeditated first-degree murder, first-degree murder while committing kidnapping, intentional second-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated first-degree robbery. If convicted of the premeditated charge, he would face a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Another defendant, 20-year-old Anthony Emerson Howson, pleaded guilty in February to intentional second degree murder.
Howson testified at the time that Bonnell carried a gun and talked of a plan to kill Lavalley in retaliation for unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate touching of his girlfriend, 17-year-old Bailey Bodell French. He said the four of them spent the day together Jan. 5.
Howson testified that he eventually drove the victim's roommate's car out to the Kerr area, on the western side of Hibbing, in the early morning hours of Jan. 6. He said he waited with the car while Bonnell and French placed a bandana around Lavalley's face and led him down the trail.
Lavalley's body was discovered by a snowmobiler later that day with two gunshot wounds to the face, according to court documents. He had no wallet or identification, so investigators had to use fingerprints to identify the body.
In the subsequent investigation, Howson and French both allegedly confirmed the circumstances of Lavalley's death. French, according to court documents, told police that Bonnell fired the two shots.
French, like Bonnell, was later indicted by a grand jury on charges of premeditated first-degree murder and first-degree murder while committing kidnapping.
French has yet to enter a plea. She is scheduled to be back in court July 9. Howson agreed to a 25½-year prison term, but a formal sentencing date has not been scheduled as he is continuing to cooperate with prosecutors.
Schellack said he doesn't anticipate Bonnell's trial lasting more than a few days, as the defense will likely stipulate to the forensic evidence gathered in the investigation. He did not specify whether he would argue mental illness or some other defense.
Starr scheduled the trial to last up to a week, with a final pretrial hearing set for July 11.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Bonnie Thayer.