Judge affirms warrant in West Duluth homicide investigation

A felony charge also was upheld against the girlfriend of a man already convicted of murder for his role in Timothy Nelson's death.

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James Michael Peterson

There was "ample probable cause" for police to obtain a search warrant in the investigation of a September 2019 shooting death in West Duluth, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge Leslie Beiers denied James Michael Peterson's request for a hearing to contest the veracity of the warrant executed at his home a day after the killing of Timothy Jon Nelson.

A defense attorney had argued that the warrant was invalid because Duluth police investigators "polished the facts" by misrepresenting and omitting key details about the case.

"Law enforcement had to investigate all leads, including of Mr. Peterson," Beiers wrote in her 11-page order. "Even if Officer (David) Decker had included all the information in the affidavit that Mr. Peterson claims to be misleading, omitted and material, there remained a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime would be found at Mr. (Christopher) Boder and Mr. Peterson’s residence."

Peterson, 39, is scheduled to stand trial March 2 on a charge of aiding and abetting intentional second-degree murder. Boder, his co-defendant, was already found guilty of the same charge and is serving a 25-year prison sentence .


Nelson, 33, was fatally shot during a confrontation on the 300 block of North 62nd Avenue West, shortly after he reportedly tried to rob Boder with a BB gun, on Sept. 22, 2019. Prosecutors allege that Boder returned to his home, picking up Peterson and a rifle, before returning to the scene.

PREVIOUSLY: Robbery precipitated West Duluth homicide; 2 charged with murder; third person arrested The men were arrested in connection with Sunday's shooting death of Timothy Jon Nelson in West Duluth.
Some statements have pointed to Peterson as the shooter, though the charge does not require prosecutors to prove which man actually pulled the trigger.

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Christopher Floyd Boder

In executing the warrant, police seized an empty rifle case and ammunition that was said to match a spent cartridge located near Nelson's body.

Peterson's attorney, Matthew Benfield, asked the court in December to schedule a hearing, at which police officers and other witnesses could be called to testify about the basis for the warrant. Evidence could be suppressed if there was a finding of false statements or omissions that led to the search.

Benfield's motion attacked the credibility of the state's key witness, Jamie Sanford, who provided a detailed account of the events leading up to Nelson's death. He also cited an apparent inaccuracy in describing one witness' location, along with omitted statements from others in the neighborhood, in claiming that there was evidence of an "alternate suspect."

PREVIOUSLY: Defense: 'Reckless disregard for the truth' in West Duluth homicide investigation A key witness' account was unreliable and police omitted conflicting information when applying for a search warrant at James Michael Peterson's home, his defense attorney asserted.
St. Louis County prosecutor Nate Stumme defended the warrant, arguing that none of the alleged discrepancies were "material to the finding of probable cause." He described Sanford as an eyewitness who provided a factual statement against her own interests and said no evidence points to another suspect.


Beiers agreed with the prosecutor.

"Mr. Peterson’s motion would require the court to review each component of the affidavit in isolation, not under the totality of the circumstances," the judge wrote. "Viewing the affidavit as a whole, there was ample probable cause to issue the search warrant."

Peterson is scheduled to be back in court Feb. 10. He remains in custody and would be eligible to go to trial under the criteria for the limited resumption of jury trials in Minnesota.

Woman's aiding charge upheld

It's the second month in a row that Beiers has rejected a defense challenge. In December, she denied a motion to dismiss a felony count of aiding an offender against Boder's girlfriend, Taylor Ann Fredrickson.

Fredrickson, 28, is accused of providing police with a false alibi of Boder's whereabouts on the night of Nelson's death. She allegedly told police that Boder was "with her the entire night so he could not have committed the murder," according to the charge.

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Taylor Ann Fredrickson

Defense attorney Kevin Cornwell said his client later qualified that she was with Boder throughout the night, "except when she was sleeping and she was not sure where he was at."


He argued there was a lack of probable cause to support the charge, along with asserting that Fredrickson was subjected to an in-custody interview without being provided a Miranda warning.

PREVIOUSLY: Woman accused of providing false alibi in West Duluth homicide Taylor Ann Fredrickson, 27, is the fourth person charged in connection with the shooting death of 33-year-old Timothy Jon Nelson.
But Beiers said the defendant's claim to have been with Boder at the time of Nelson's shooting was "contradicted by significant evidence," including Sanford's testimony and surveillance video.

The judge further concluded that Fredrickson was voluntarily giving a statement to police as a witness — not as an arrested suspect — when she made the allegedly false statements.

"The totality of the circumstances here demonstrates that a reasonable person would not believe they were restrained to the degree associated with a formal arrest," Beiers wrote in a 12-page ruling. "Ms. Fredrickson was not in custody and the police were not required to advise her of her Miranda rights."

Fredrickson faces a settlement conference Feb. 5. A trial date has not been set.

Peterson's girlfriend, Amber Rose Louise Forrest, also faces a charge of aiding an offender for allegedly tampering with evidence at their residence . Police said she removed two BB guns and a backpack while investigators were in the process of obtaining a second search warrant.

Forrest, 30, is scheduled to face a jury April 20.


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Amber Rose Louise Forrest

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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