A second woman has pleaded guilty to her role in obstructing the investigation into the September 2019 shooting death of Timothy Nelson in West Duluth.
Amber Rose Louise Forrest, 31, entered an Alford plea to a felony count of aiding an offender at a hearing Monday in State District Court. Forrest, according to court documents, was in a relationship with one of the alleged perpetrators and tampered with the scene of a search warrant by removing several items of potential evidence.
In an Alford plea, the defendant is able to maintain his or her claim of innocence while acknowledging that there exists sufficient evidence for the prosecution to obtain a conviction from a judge or jury.
Forrest is the third of four defendants charged in the case to be convicted. With the plea, she avoids a jury trial that had been set for early November.
Judge Leslie Beiers ordered an investigation into Forrest's background ahead of sentencing Nov. 12. She remains free on supervised release.
Authorities said Forrest removed two BB guns and a backpack from the home she shared with her boyfriend, James Michael Peterson — using a ladder to climb into a second-story window while investigators worked to obtain the proper paperwork to seize the items.
Peterson and another man, Christopher Floyd Boder, were later charged with Nelson's killing. According to court documents and trial testimony, Nelson was gunned down during a Sept. 22 confrontation that came shortly after he attempted to rob Boder while armed with a BB or flare gun.
Police on Sept. 24 executed several search warrants at the house, 224 N. 62nd Ave. W., which was listed as the residence for both Peterson and Boder. Peterson and Forrest were present and were removed from the home when officers arrived at approximately noon that day, according to a criminal complaint filed in Forrest's case.
Taken outside and interviewed by an officer, Forrest was "unable to provide a consistent or clear chronology of her events" around the time of Nelson's death, stating that she "knew nothing about the shooting and denied even being in the area at the time it took place."
Inside the house, investigators found and photographed the two BB guns, but did not immediately seize them because they were not identified as items of interest in the original warrant. Police left the house and obtained a second warrant.
When they returned, according to documents, both BB guns and a backpack were missing. Meanwhile, officers found a second-floor window partially opened and noted that a ladder was placed up against a second-story window.
The next day, investigators made contact with Forrest. She allegedly turned over the backpack and admitted to having climbed into the window right after speaking with the investigator, but denied taking the BB guns.
According to documents, Forrest then consented to a search of her cellphone, which revealed text messages from the early morning hours of Sept. 25 in which she indicated she had two BB guns for sale. An ex-boyfriend later turned in a BB gun — described as a "realistic-looking semi-automatic silver handgun with a black pistol grip" — that he said he received from Forrest on Sept. 25.
Defense attorney Brian Malvick sought dismissal of Forrest's case, saying she was never advised that she could not re-enter the house while it was being searched and that she had no reason to believe the weapons were relevant to the homicide investigation.
He added that Forrest suffers from a past-traumatic brain injury and chronic drug use, arguing that she was attempting to cooperate with law enforcement.
But Judge Beiers in February 2020 upheld the charge, siding with St. Louis County prosecutor Nate Stumme, who noted that Forrest knew her boyfriend was a suspect in a homicide case, admitted to entering the house while it was still being searched and offered two BB guns for sale hours later.
Boder, 33, was convicted by a jury last fall of aiding and abetting intentional second-degree murder and is currently serving a 25½-year prison sentence. Peterson, 40, is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 14 on the same charge.
Taylor Ann Fredrickson, 29, was sentenced last month to three years of supervised probation and 90 days in the county jail or Female Offender Program after pleading guilty to an aiding charge. A friend of Boder's, she admitted to attempting to mislead police about his whereabouts on the night of Nelson's murder.