Duluth murder trial rescheduled for July
The COVID-19 pandemic and a dispute over DNA testing have forced a postponement of the first trial in the West Duluth shooting death of Timothy Nelson.
One of two men charged in a West Duluth homicide will now stand trial July 14.
Christopher Floyd Boder, 32, was set to go before a jury April 21 in connection with last September's shooting death of Timothy Jon Nelson. However, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea has placed a moratorium on all new trials until May 4 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, St. Louis County prosecutor Nate Stumme told the court that additional time was needed because authorities have been unable to proceed with the testing of certain evidence.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Leslie Beiers formally ordered the postponement, moving the proceedings back to a date that had previously been set aside for the trial.
Boder pleaded not guilty in March and demanded a speedy trial, which must occur within 60 days "unless the court finds good cause for a later trial date." Stumme indicated the parties subsequently came to terms on a plea agreement, which was to be executed in court Monday, but Boder changed his mind and decided to proceed with the trial.
Boder and James Michael Peterson, 39, are each charged with aiding and abetting intentional second-degree murder, though authorities have not clearly identified which man is suspected of pulling the trigger.
Court documents state that Nelson was gunned down while sitting in a car on the 300 block of North 62nd Avenue West in the early morning hours of Sept. 22. His death reportedly came during a confrontation shortly after Nelson attempted to rob Boder while brandishing a BB gun.
While Boder has sought to move quickly toward trial, an evidentiary objection from his co-defendant has complicated matters. Peterson is asking Beiers to prohibit the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension from moving forward with testing of a DNA sample drawn from a cartridge casing recovered by police at the scene.
BCA scientists have indicated that the process would fully consume the sample, preventing any further tests. Boder has not objected to the analysis, but a hearing on Peterson's protective motion is not scheduled until May 29. Stumme called the casing a "critical piece of evidence" that must be tested before a jury hears either case.
A public health crisis compounds scheduling difficulties, the prosecutor said.
"Every aspect of trial preparation from notification of witnesses to victim consultation to witness scheduling and preparation are in a state of discombobulation," Stumme wrote to the court.
No trial date has been scheduled in Peterson's case.
Both defendants' girlfriends also are facing felony charges in connection with the investigation. Peterson's girlfriend, 29-year-old Amber Rose Louise Forrest, is accused of tampering with the scene of a search warrant while Boder's girlfriend, 27-year-old Taylor Ann Fredrickson, allegedly provided a false alibi to police.
Forrest is due back in court May 11, while Fredrickson is scheduled to appear July 6.