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Duluth murder trial's missing witness found

A potentially key witness in a Duluth murder trial has been found, but it is still unclear when or whether she will take the stand. Despite numerous subpoena attempts, deputies had been unable to locate Sally Woundedeye to testify in Joshua Lee L...

Joshua Lee Littlewolf
Joshua Lee Littlewolf, 43, was sentenced to 40 years in prison Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, for the 2012 murder of Joshua Olson.

A potentially key witness in a Duluth murder trial has been found, but it is still unclear when or whether she will take the stand.

Despite numerous subpoena attempts, deputies had been unable to locate Sally Woundedeye to testify in Joshua Lee Littlewolf's second-degree murder trial. Littlewolf, who is representing himself, has said on numerous occasions that Woundedeye's testimony is crucial to proving his case.

"The defendant would request that she be brought here," he said Friday. "She never gave all of the information she has in its entirety."

After reading newspaper coverage of the case, a relative apparently contacted Woundedeye, now in Montana, to inform her about the trial, the court learned Friday. Woundedeye then called the St. Louis County Attorney's Office to give her whereabouts.

Littlewolf asked that she be subpoenaed to testify in his defense. The prosecution is still laying out its case, and it's likely that Littlewolf will not begin to call witnesses until at least the middle of next week.

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Judge Shaun Floerke told Littlewolf that the court will attempt to have a subpoena sent overnight so Woundedeye can be served as soon as possible. But even if she's served, there is no guarantee that she will actually appear in court.

Woundedeye also has a warrant out for her arrest in Minnesota stemming from a domestic assault case. If she is not served or fails to appear for court, an extradition process could begin, but that would require her arrest and a court extradition process.

The extradition process can be lengthy, and it's unclear if she would be available while the trial is still ongoing, Littlewolf's advisory counsel, Rex Laaksonen, said outside the courtroom Friday.

"It would be up to the judge to decide whether it's worth delaying the trial," he said.

Littlewolf is accused of killing 28-year-old Joshua Olson at the Frances Skinner Apartments in downtown Duluth on April 27, 2012. Surveillance video shown in court Wednesday appears to show that Olson, Littlewolf, Woundedeye and the apartment's renter, Nakota Benjamin, were the only ones in the apartment at the time of the killing.

The video shows Littlewolf leaving the building about 3:08 a.m. that morning and Woundedeye leaving at 7:53 a.m. Benjamin called 911 about a half-hour after she left to report that he woke up to find a dead body, later identified as Olson, in his apartment.

Littlewolf has said that Woundedeye knows more than she has previously told police about the incident. Littlewolf has said he left the apartment before Olson was killed and believes that someone else -- possibly Benjamin -- was the real perpetrator.

Before the start of the trial, Littlewolf had sought a continuance until Woundedeye could be found, but Floerke denied the motion. Floerke was also considering a motion to allow Woundedeye's statement to police to be admitted into evidence.

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Prosecutor Nate Stumme had asked that it not be allowed, and said he would rather see a continuance than have a jury hear her statement, calling it confusing and harmful to the state's case.

If Woundedeye takes the stand, it appears that would no longer be an issue, Laaksonen said.

"(The statement) would probably be ruled hearsay," he said. "There's no need for it if she's here to testify and be cross-examined."

Also Friday, the 12-member jury began listening to more than four hours of recorded audio interviews between Littlewolf and two Duluth police investigators.

Investigator David Decker told the jury that they would hear Littlewolf confess in the tapes to stabbing Olson in the neck with a knife and running out of the apartment. He was later arrested in St. Cloud, where he was living at the time.

Littlewolf had attempted to block the tapes from being played in the trial. He said he was highly intoxicated at the time and was not aware that he was being questioned in a murder investigation.

He has admitted that he was involved in a physical altercation with Olson the night of the murder, saying that Olson attempted to attack him with a knife. Littlewolf has said that he grabbed the knife away from Olson and gave him minor injuries in self-defense, but not the fatal wounds.

Littlewolf described the knife as having a serrated blade, similar to one found on the kitchen counter in the apartment with traces of blood on it.

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The jury will likely hear more of the tapes when the trial resumes Monday, but at least a portion of the day will be allocated to a medical expert from North Dakota that Littlewolf has called to testify. Due to a scheduling conflict, Stumme agreed to allow Littlewolf to call the witness while the state is still making its case.

Related Topics: CRIME
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