Hibbing murder defendant ruled competent
The 18-year-old Chisholm man accused of an execution-style murder along a Hibbing snomobile trail has been found competent to proceed in court.
Deshon Israel Bonnell is charged with shooting 33-year-old Joshua Robert Lavalley of Aurora on the Mesabi Trail in early January in retaliation for sexual advances made toward his girlfriend.
Bonnell's case was on hold for more than three months as he underwent a court-ordered mental health evaluation. On Thursday, a week after a psychologist's report was filed, 6th Judicial District Judge Mark Starr ruled that Bonnell is capable of understanding the proceedings and participating in his defense.
The evaluation also was ordered to gather information that could potentially be used as evidence for a defense of not guilty by reason of mental illness or deficiency, though the psychologist's findings remain confidential.
Bonnell, one of three defendants in the case, 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. His next court appearance was scheduled for May 30.
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.
"Deshon said that he had a gun and he wasn't afraid to use it if Lavalley tried to do anything," Howson said at his plea hearing. "And then Deshon kept on saying to himself and to Lavalley that you're not going to be able to live today."
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.
"I heard two shots," Howson testified.
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. She also faces the potential of a life sentence without parole.
French is scheduled to be back in court May 16.
Howson is expected to receive a guideline prison term of 25 ½ years in prison. As he is continuing to cooperate with prosecutors, a sentencing date has not been scheduled.