Northwest Minn. murder accomplice entitled to new sentencing, court says
BEMIDJI, Minn.—A Bemidji man convicted of aiding an offender in connection with the death of Rose Downwind is entitled to a new sentencing, according to a recently released Minnesota Court of Appeals opinion.
A jury found in October 2016 that Brandon Rossbach, 33, helped Downwind's killer—her former boyfriend Marchello Cimmarusti—burn and bury her body in a shallow ditch northwest of Bemidji. Cimmarusti pleaded guilty to second-degree intentional murder in April 2016 and was later sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Rossbach was sentenced to 16 years and nine months in prison in December 2016. But in the opinion released Monday, a court of appeals judge wrote that he was entitled to a new sentencing because the state district court did not bring the issue of "the specific predicate offense" to the jury.
The term "predicate offense" refers to the crime a person is accused of aiding. A person convicted of aiding an offender in a case of second-degree murder faces more prison time than a person convicted of aiding someone who committed third-degree murder or manslaughter.
Rossbach was sentenced for aiding an offender in a second-degree murder. But, the opinion says, a jury should have decided what level of homicide he helped aid.
"We conclude that, had the district court questioned Rossbach about his right to have the jury determine the specific predicate offense, there is a reasonable possibility that he would not have waived that right, and that error in not obtaining a personal waiver affected Rossbach's substantial rights," the opinion said.
Cimmarusti killed Downwind, a 31-year-old mother of five, on Oct. 20, 2015, during an argument over utility money at a house in Bemidji. He, Rossbach and another man—Christopher John Davis, 29, of St. Paul—took Downwind's body to an area northwest of Bemidji, where they burned and buried her.
All three men kept Downwind's death and location secret until Cimmarusti turned himself in on Dec. 7, 2015.
Davis pleaded guilty to aiding an offender and was sentenced to 10 years and three months in prison.
Rossbach is currently incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater. No timeline for Rossbach's re-sentencing was immediately available.