A Duluth man was charged Wednesday with three felonies as the 70-year-old victim of a Park Point home invasion assault remained hospitalized in a coma.
Darrel Darryl Mayhew, 30, was arraigned in State District Court on first-degree assault, aggravated first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary charges in the Jan. 2 incident at the home Larry Watczak.
A criminal complaint alleges that Mayhew entered the Watczak’s residence on the 800 block of South Lake Avenue and struck him over the head with an unknown blunt object. Mayhew allegedly took the victim’s cellphone, a tablet computer and roughly $2 in cash before leaving.
Watczak was rushed to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center due to the severity of his injuries. He had undergone emergency surgery and remained in a coma at the time of charging, according to the complaint.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Theresa Neo granted St. Louis County prosecutor Rebekka Stumme’s request to set bail at $750,000 and denied a referral to supervised release.
“This matter in which Mr. Mayhew stands charged is an utterly senseless and random act of violence within our community,” Stumme told the judge.
Several members of Watczak’s family attended the arraignment. They declined comment.
According to the complaint:
Officers were called to Watczak’s residence around 6 p.m. and made contact with the victim, who was bloodied and holding a towel over his head. Watczak stated that two unknown men had entered the residence through his unlocked front door.
He reported that he had been struck with some object and a blanket was thrown over his head. Watczak said a male demanded money, so he produced the change from his pocket. The suspect also took his phone and tablet.
Investigators have not been able to follow up with Watczak because he had to undergo emergency surgery and has yet to regain consciousness. An online fundraiser states that he suffered a seizure and necessitated brain surgery due to bleeding.
In a canvass of the neighborhood, officers discovered a glove with apparent blood stains at a nearby residence. An imprint matching the glove was seen on the window at Watczak’s front door.
A neighbor reported that an African American man had approached him and asked for money and painkillers around the time of the assault. The man turned over surveillance video, giving investigators a suspect image.
The same male was seen on video from the Aerial Lift Bridge leaving Park Point about an hour and 20 minutes later, carrying a red bag. A security guard at the Paulucci Building provided a matching description of a man he had contact with in an office, and additional surveillance footage showed the man walking to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and through the Northwest Passage into downtown, carrying a bag and tablet computer.
Meanwhile, investigators learned that Watczak’s cellphone had been used by a resident of the Miketin Central Boarding and Lodging Home at 30 E. Second St. A resident there stated that an African American man had come by on Jan. 2 and gave the device to a fellow resident, who initially took it before deciding he should try to return the phone to its rightful owner.
Another person interviewed by law enforcement said she believed the suspect’s name to be “Terell” and provided information about his residence and family.
After releasing a photo to the public, police received several tips identifying him as Mayhew. Officers executed a search warrant at Mayhew’s apartment, 331 W. Third St., and located a tablet computer as well as clothing consistent with that of the suspect.
In an interview, Mayhew’s girlfriend reported that he had been away from the residence on Jan. 2, returning to change clothes and then leave again. She stated that he had come home with a red bag and the tablet but would not tell her where the items had come from.
Mayhew was taken into custody around 7 p.m. Sunday.
Public defender Natasha VanLieshout, who represented the defendant at his arraignment, said Mayhew has no criminal record in Duluth and no felony history in Minnesota. Noting that he lives with his girlfriend and 1-year-old child and is unable to afford any bail, she sought a referral to supervised probation.
Stumme, however, called Mayhew an “extreme flight risk” with active arrest warrants in Hennepin and Ramsey counties and few ties to the Duluth area. The prosecutor said Mayhew has lived locally for only about five months, having come from the Twin Cities after spending most of his life in Illinois.
Neo sided with Stumme, who also filed a notice of intent to seek an aggravated sentence based on the crime occuring in the victim’s “zone of privacy.” Mayhew’s next court date was set for Jan. 29.
An online fundraiser for Watczak is available at gofundme.com/kksf6b-larry-watczak-assault-victim.