Charges: Mesabi Trail victim shot to death
Two men and a teenage girl were charged Thursday with murder, kidnapping and robbery in the death of an Aurora man whose body was found along the Mesabi Trail last weekend.
Deshon Israel Bonnell, 18, and Anthony Emerson Howson, 20, both of Hibbing, appeared in State District Court in Hibbing on Thursday morning to be arraigned on charges of second-degree murder, kidnapping and first-degree aggravated robbery in the death of 33-year-old Joshua Robert Lavalley.
Bailey Bodell French, 17, appeared Thursday afternoon in St. Louis County juvenile court in Hibbing for a detention hearing on the same charges. The News Tribune typically does not name juvenile defendants but makes an exception for 16- and 17-year-olds charged with felonies, whose names are publicly available.
Lavalley's body, which was found by a snowmobiler, had no wallet or identification on his person, but authorities used fingerprints to identify him. Bonnell and Howson both were arrested Monday and booked into the St. Louis County Jail. French was arrested Tuesday.
According to the criminal complaints and a juvenile petition filed Thursday:
Lavalley's body was discovered Sunday afternoon along the Mesabi Trail near Kerr, on the western side of Hibbing, with two gunshot wounds to the face. Police found a .22-caliber shell casing about 7-8 feet away from the body.
Police spoke with Lavalley's roommate, who said he had loaned his vehicle, a 2001 Chevrolet Impala, to Lavalley for the weekend. On Monday, police found the vehicle in Hibbing with Howson inside. Howson told police that he, Bonnell and French had spent the weekend with Lavalley and that Lavalley had made unwanted sexual advances toward French, the complaint states.
Howson told police that the advances angered the three and that they held him against his will and ridiculed him. French, whom police interviewed at her parents' home, told investigators that she told Bonnell, who is her boyfriend, about the sexual advances and that Bonnell said he was going to kill Lavalley. French told police that she and the two men took away Lavalley's personal belongings and forced him to sit in a chair facing the wall.
French and Howson told police that the three then drove Lavalley to the area along the Mesabi Trail where Lavalley's body was later found, the complaint states. Howson stayed in the vehicle as Bonnell and French forced Lavalley to walk blindfolded into the woods. French told police that Bonnell then shot Lavalley and that she and Bonnell then walked back to the vehicle. Howson told police he heard two shots from the woods while he waited in the car.
Police searched French's home and found a .22-caliber Ruger pistol under a mattress. Bonnell's mother told police that her pistol had gone missing. She provided investigators with some ammunition for the gun, which matched the shell casings found at the scene where Lavalley's body was found.
Bonnell and Howson both are being held in the St. Louis County Jail on $1 million bail. Their next court appearance is set for Jan. 17. French is being held in a juvenile detention facility. A motion to try her as an adult was filed along with the juvenile petition, Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Leah Stauber said. A judge Thursday ordered a certification study to determine whether the motion will be granted; a decision generally is made within 30 days, Stauber said.
Howson was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2017 on a charge of tampering or entering a motor vehicle without the owner's permission. He was listed in court records at that time as having a Cambridge, Minn., address. Bonnell has no previous convictions.
The Mesabi Trail death was the second homicide reported in the Hibbing area in less than two weeks. On Dec. 25, Jeryel Octavious McBeth, 34, of Hibbing was shot and killed outside a residence at 2408 Third Ave. E. in Hibbing. Jerome Dionte Spann, 29, has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree assault in that case.