Man found guilty in 2019 Makinen slaying

J Nicholas Cramer faces up to 40 years in prison for killing his one-time friend after a feud had been simmering for days.

A mug shot of a man.
J Nicholas Cramer

VIRGINIA — A jury found a 56-year-old Mora man guilty of second-degree intentional murder after five hours of deliberations Tuesday.

J Nicholas Cramer could face up to 40 years in prison, the maximum sentence, for killing Frank Gerald Meyer on Oct. 2, 2019, in Makinen.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 12.

But the jury also acquitted Cramer of premeditated first-degree murder, which would have resulted in an automatic life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

In a Tuesday news release, the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office offered condolences to Meyer’s friends and family.


“Mr. Meyer was a loving father with natural artistic talent. Mr. Meyer’s last known words were a text message to his daughter saying ‘Love you,’” the office, led by County Attorney Kim Maki, said in the release.

Range Criminal Division Head Bonnie Norlander and Assistant County Attorney Tyler Kenefick prosecuted the trial.

In documents and opening statements, the prosecution laid out their case against Cramer, saying he was a onetime friend of Meyer but killed him amid a feud that had been escalating over several days. Cramer had been staying with his wife in a camper on Meyer's property, 3316 Curt Lane, Makinen.

Meyer texted “love you” to his then-11-year-old daughter, Arianna, at 7:40 p.m. on the night of the killing. By 7:55 p.m. his phone stopped recording steps.

It wasn’t until Oct. 8, nearly a week later, that a deputy with the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office found Meyer’s body in his own garage under a pile that included several large bags of insulation, a mini-bike and a battery charger. Meyer’s arms and legs had been bound, he was shot four times, had rags stuffed in his mouth and had been struck multiple times with a blunt object.

Deputies located his body after a neighbor twice requested welfare checks.

Prosecutors said Meyer and Cramer had previously exchanged heated text messages, with Meyer asking about a car window that had been shot out on his property and demanding that the defendant get his belongings off the property.

On Sept. 30, two days before Meyer was killed, a deputy was called out to the property when a neighbor complained of loud noises. The deputy testified last week that he found Cramer moving several cars so they wouldn’t get stuck in the mud on Meyer’s property.


The prosecution also pointed to two cartridge casings found near the garage door that were fired by the same .22-caliber Ruger pistol as a cartridge recovered from the Cramers' camper. Investigators also tracked down the man who sold the weapon to Cramer and recovered additional matching cartridge casings.

On the night of the killing, the Cramers were seen leaving the area, having stopped at a U.S. Highway 53 gas station approximately 7 miles away.

A pipe was found in a trash can near Meyer's body, containing a bloody fingerprint left by the victim. DNA swabs revealed both Meyer and Cramer as likely contributors.

Public defender J.D. Schmid had said Cramer did not kill Meyer and questioned the investigators’ work, saying not all leads were followed and some forensic testing was not completed.

Meyer grew up in Angora and graduated in 1990 from Cook High School, where he played trumpet in the band and participated in football and track. His father, George Meyer, has said he was hoping to teach the instrument to his daughter, and also enjoyed hunting, fishing, waterskiing and making snow sculptures.

Meyer worked as an industrial painter before starting his own auto body repair and painting business. He formerly lived in Eveleth, purchasing the Makinen property just a year before his death in order to further pursue his career.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at or 218-723-5332.
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