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Douglas County files charges in Lake Superior killing, dismemberment case

The man charged, Robert Thomas West, is facing similar charges in Cook County.

Douglas County, Wis., Courtroom
Douglas County Circuit Court, Superior, Wisconsin. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Charges were filed in Douglas County Circuit Court on Monday, Dec. 13, against a South Range man for his alleged role in dismembering the body of a St. Paul man whose remains were found in Lake Superior in July.

Robert Thomas West, 41, is facing felony charges of party to mutilating a corpse, harboring or aiding a felon and possession of a firearm by a felon. An arrest warrant was filed with the charges, as West remains in custody in Cook County, Minnesota, where he faces similar charges.

Dive teams located the remains of Richard Balsimo Jr. of St. Paul July 15-16 in cement-weighted buckets that had been dumped in Lake Superior near Grand Portage, Minnesota. Jacob Colt Johnson, 35, of Superior, was charged in August in State District Court in Cook County, with second-degree murder for Balsimo’s death.

West told Douglas County Sheriff’s Office detectives that Johnson showed up at his home in South Range on June 20, according to the criminal complaint. The Audi Johnson was driving had bullet holes in the front passenger seat; Balsimo’s dead body was in the back seat, the complaint said. Johnson told West he shot Balsimo in self defense.

RELATED: Details emerge with murder charge in Lake Superior killing, dismemberment case

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Robert Thomas West.jpeg
Robert Thomas West

West and Johnson brought the body to an RV in Bennett, where Johnson cut up the body, according to the criminal complaint. West allegedly said he went to Menards in Superior to buy additional tools, as well as the buckets and cement to put the body parts in. He and Johnson later burned their clothes.

West admitted to transporting the remains to Grand Portage, Minnesota, and going out on a boat with a fisherman to dump the buckets and a tote into Lake Superior, the complaint said. The commercial fisherman allegedly identified West as the person they took out on Lake Superior to dump the buckets, which West claimed contained valuables.

The gun used in the homicide was given to West by the third party after Johnson was arrested and incarcerated June 24, according to the criminal complaint. He told detectives he took the gun apart and threw it in Lake Superior. Magnet and hand searches turned up a Glock barrel with a serial number, a trigger and other gun parts at the location West indicated.

West faces charges of aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact and interference of a dead body in Cook County. In addition to West and Johnson, Tommi Lynn Hintz, 31, of Duluth, is also facing charges related to Balsimo’s death. Hintz was taken into custody Aug. 11 on charges of accomplice after the fact to felony murder and interference with a dead body. All three are set for omnibus hearings in Cook County District Court in January.

The most serious Douglas County charge West faces, party to mutilating a corpse, is punishable by up to 12.5 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $25,000. West has yet to make an initial appearance in Douglas County.

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