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Duluth homicide victim identified; suspect was on probation

Ryan Roessler, who turned 42 on Friday, was killed by a punch to the head, according to police.

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DULUTH — The victim of a weekend homicide in the city's Lakeside-Lester Park neighborhood has been identified as Ryan Arthur Roessler.

Roessler, who turned 42 on Friday, died after being punched in the head early Saturday, according to police.

A suspect, 46-year-old Anthony Thomas Laspina, is in the St. Louis County Jail on a preliminary charge of first-degree manslaughter. Court records indicate he "has a long history of physical violence due to mental illness, particularly when methamphetamine use is present."

With the courts closed for a holiday Monday, a formal charging decision or request for extension is expected from the St. Louis County Attorney's Office by Wednesday morning.

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Anthony Thomas Laspina

Public records show that Laspina owns at the home, 105 N. 54th Ave. E., where the altercation was reported at approximately 12:50 a.m. Saturday. Police said they were initially dispatched for a "medical/assault call" and found Roessler down on the floor.

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Officers reportedly learned that a verbal argument turned physical and Roessler was knocked unconscious with a punch. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have not released any further details on the circumstances of the altercation.

Laspina was taken to the Public Safety Building in Duluth, where he allegedly "caused damage to the interview room," before he was taken to jail.

The suspect remains on probation following an April 2020 incident in which he reportedly attacked and threatened neighbors and police officers.

A criminal complaint in that case states that Laspina was using a speaker to yell at a neighbor before threatening to "throw a big jug" in another resident's face. Police were called and intervened, but a short time later it was reported that Laspina, armed with a large knife, was chasing a neighbor down the sidewalk and through several yards.

At one point, Laspina threw the knife at the neighbor, who tossed it back, striking him between the eyes, according to the complaint. By the time police arrived, he had barricaded himself inside a basement workshop and claimed to have a 10,000-volt wire that would kill anyone who entered.

Police said they breached the door and found Laspia "greatly agitated, yelling and screaming at the top of his lungs," while armed with a metal pipe. Laspina allegedly punched K-9 Riggs approximately four or five times before he was subdued with the use of Tasers and five less-lethal foam rounds.

Court records show that Laspina later entered into a plea agreement to three felony counts of making threats of violence, with assault charges dismissed. Judge Eric Hylden in November 2020 granted him a departure from sentencing guidelines, citing his "demonstrated commitment to chemical dependency and mental health treatment."

Laspina, having already served 117 days in jail, was given a stay of adjudication, which would allow the charges to be dismissed if he followed a number of conditions of supervised probation and remained law-abiding through November 2023.

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Court records indicate Laspina was convicted of a number of crimes in the late 1990s and early 2000s, mostly related to drug manufacturing and distribution. But his record had been relatively clear over the previous 15 years, with the exception of one impaired driving case in 2012.

This story was updated at 4:25 p.m. Jan. 18 with additional background information. It was originally posted at 10:54 a.m. Jan. 18.

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 tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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