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West Duluth murder trial to begin in September

James Peterson will face a jury nearly two years after co-defendant Christopher Boder was found guilty of his role in the killing of Timothy Nelson.

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James Michael Peterson
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DULUTH — A West Duluth homicide defendant is finally set to face trial next month, three years after his alleged involvement in the killing of Timothy Jon Nelson.

James Michael Peterson, 41, will go before a jury on a charge of aiding and abetting intentional second-degree murder in Nelson's shooting death Sept. 22, 2019.

A co-defendant, Christopher Floyd Boder, was convicted of the same charge and sentenced nearly two years ago, with an appeal now pending before the Minnesota Supreme Court. But Peterson's case has been postponed at least three times due to the COVID-19 pandemic and discovery issues involving cellphone records.

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Christopher Floyd Boder

Judge Leslie Beiers said at a pretrial hearing Monday that she intends to conduct jury selection Sept. 13-14. Testimony is expected to begin Monday, Sept. 19, and continue through that week.

Evidence presented at Boder's October 2020 trial indicated he was irate after Nelson attempted to rob him with a BB or flare gun. Nelson's friend, Jamie Sanford, testified that she had the victim drop her off at Boder's residence to obtain drugs. Boder and Sanford were in a car when Nelson, seemingly unaware it was them, suddenly appeared and began a brief struggle with Boder, the witness testified.

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Boder fended him off and Nelson left. Sanford testified that she then attempted to broker a peaceful resolution to the dispute, but Boder was enraged, picking up Peterson and a firearm. She said Boder made a comment about notifying Nelson's parents of "where to find the body" before the men dropped her off at a Proctor gas station.

Nelson, 33, was later found with a gunshot wound to the abdomen in his truck on the 300 block of North 62nd Avenue West. Neighbors reported hearing a struggle, with someone yelling "don't shoot" prior to hearing a gunshot.

Boder's attorneys contended that it was Peterson who shot Nelson. But, because both men were charged with aiding and abetting one another, it's unnecessary for prosecutors to actually prove who pulled the trigger.

Peterson's attorney, Matthew Benfield, has asserted that his client was dropped off at home and not actually present for the shooting, therefore assuming no liability for Nelson's death.

Family of Timothy Nelson
Relatives of shooting victim Timothy Jon Nelson wear "Justice for Timothy" T-shirts at the sentencing of Christopher Floyd Boder on Nov. 18, 2020.
Contributed / Roni Nelson

Boder, 34, is serving a 25 1/2-year prison sentence, having lost a challenge to the conviction at the Minnesota Court of Appeals. However, the state Supreme Court in May granted a petition to review the case on two grounds.

The pandemic pushed Boder's trial from April to October 2020 — a delay that the defense insists was a violation of his speedy trial rights. The judge also closed the courtroom to spectators, choosing to use a closed-circuit feed to a separate viewing room for one of the first area trials to occur under COVID conditions. Boder asserts that violated his right to a public trial.

The Supreme Court has yet to take further action or issue any schedule in Boder's case, having stayed proceedings pending the outcome of another Duluth case that was being contested on similar grounds. The high court in July ruled that William Deshawn Paige's right to a speedy trial was not violated as a result of pandemic delays.

Two women have also been convicted of obstructing the investigation into Nelson's death. Amber Rose Louise Forrest and Taylor Ann Fredrickson both received probationary sentences.

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More crime and courts coverage
Police consider it an isolated incident as both parties are known to each other.

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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