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Evaluation ordered in Hibbing murder case

A Hibbing man accused of murdering Joshua Robert Lavalley has been ordered to undergo an evaluation to determine his mental competency. Deshon Israel Bonnell, 18, was arrested earlier this month on charges that he shot Lavalley on Jan. 6 on the M...

Deshon Bonnell (left) and Anthony Howson
Deshon Israel Bonnell (left) and Anthony Emerson Howson

A Hibbing man accused of murdering Joshua Robert Lavalley has been ordered to undergo an evaluation to determine his mental competency.

Deshon Israel Bonnell, 18, was arrested earlier this month on charges that he shot Lavalley on Jan. 6 on the Mesabi Trail in Hibbing.

At his initial hearing Thursday, St. Louis County District Judge Mark M. Starr approved a request by Bonnell's attorney James Perunovich that he go through a Rule 20.01 evaluation, which refers to Minnesota court rules in regards to competency hearings.

Bonnell and 20-year-old Anthony Emerson Howson, who also made his initial appearance on Thursday, both face felony charges of second-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery in the first degree. Howson is being represented by attorney Todd Deal.

Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Bonnie Thayer is prosecuting both cases.

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Earlier this month, authorities found Lavalley dead on the trail, just east of Kerr in Hibbing. Police had tracked down his vehicle and confirmed that he spent the weekend with Bonnell, Howson and Bonnell's girlfriend, Bailey Bodell French, 17.

According to district court records, Howson gave investigators Lavalley's financial card and told them that "Lavalley had attempted unwanted sexual contact with" the teenage girl. French told police that the three Hibbing residents kidnapped Lavalley and drove him to the trail.

French said Howson stayed in the car, as she and Bonnell led Lavalley blindfolded into the woods, according to court documents. Bonnell then shot Lavalley, she said.

A .22-caliber pistol was found under French's mattress at her residence after investigators discovered Bonnell's mother was missing her firearm.

French was arrested on Jan. 18, but has not been charged as an adult. Names of 16- and 17-year-olds charged with a felony are public, according to the County Attorney's Office.

Howson's omnibus hearing is scheduled for Feb. 14. Bonnell's next court appearance was pushed back until the completion of the competency evaluation. If convicted, both men face 40 years in prison for second-degree murder and kidnapping each and 20 years for first degree aggravated robbery.

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