Defense: No motive or evidence tying defendant to slaying of pregnant Cloquet woman, toddler

Another person is responsible for the deaths of Jackie DeFoe and Kevin Shabaiash Jr., an attorney asserted this week.

Sheldon James Thompson

A Cloquet man had "absolutely no motive" to kill his pregnant girlfriend and her toddler, and prosecutors have no physical evidence linking him to the crime, a defense attorney said.

Three murder charges against Sheldon James Thompson should therefore be dismissed for a lack of probable cause, attorney Kassius Benson told the court in a filing this week.

"The state's case is based largely upon the unreliable, uncorroborated and unsubstantiated statements of witnesses who claim that Mr. Thompson made admissions to them," Benson wrote. "Mr. Thompson did not make any such admission to any third party. To be clear, Mr. Thompson did not commit any act leading to the death of the victims."

Thompson, 33, is charged with killing 27-year-old Jackie DeFoe, who was 13 weeks pregnant with his child, along with her 20-month-old son, Kevin Shabaiash Jr., at their residence on the Fond du Lac Reservation in Cloquet.


File: Jackie Defoe
Victoria Smith holds a picture of homicide victims Jackie DeFoe and her son Kevin Shabaiash Jr. at a memorial march on the Fond du Lac Reservation in March 2020. (File / News Tribune)

Authorities said the victims' bodies were discovered March 7 after a "concerned citizen" told police that Thompson made statements indicating he had killed DeFoe and her child.

Officers found the victims' bodies in separate bedrooms at the residence, 1620 Locke Lane. They were concealed under blankets and clothing, and both doors had been screwed shut, according to court documents. DeFoe had been stabbed several dozen times, while Kevin died from blunt force injuries, an autopsy found.

Police said the investigation led to "a number of witnesses" who reported that Thompson had told them that he killed the mother and son.

But Benson said that is not the case, arguing that his client was "looking forward to having a child" with DeFoe and is "innocent of the charges."

The defense attorney hinted that "evidence exists that another person had motive to commit the murders charged in this case," though he did not elaborate on that assertion.

"Importantly, the prosecution has no eyewitnesses to the crime charged," Benson said. "No relevant physical or forensic evidence links Mr. Thompson to this crime. No murder weapon has been recovered linking Mr. Thompson to this crime. No evidence corroborates the unreliable statements of witnesses motivated by their own biases against Mr. Thompson and desires for rewards from the government."

Prosecutors recently indicated they would seek a longer-than-guideline sentence for Thompson if he is convicted, saying the victims were "particularly vulnerable" and were treated with "particular cruelty," among other aggravating factors.


Thompson faces a maximum of 40 years in prison on each of his charges: two counts of intentional second-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder of an unborn child.

Benson requested an in-person evidentiary hearing to solicit testimony from two to six witnesses on his motion to dismiss the case. That hearing has yet to be scheduled.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or
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