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Man to stand trial in fatal West Duluth shooting

Christopher Boder, one of two men charged in the killing of Timothy Nelson, allegedly confessed to a fellow jail inmate, new court filings reveal.

Christopher Floyd Boder.jpg
Christopher Floyd Boder

A Duluth man must stand trial for the fatal shooting of 33-year-old Timothy Jon Nelson in West Duluth last fall, a judge ruled.

Christopher Floyd Boder, 32, is tentatively scheduled to face a jury in October on a charge of aiding and abetting intentional second-degree murder.

Judge Leslie Beiers denied Boder's motion to dismiss the charge for a lack of probable cause, determining there is sufficient evidence for a jury to consider whether Boder, along with co-defendant James Michael Peterson, was responsible for Nelson's death Sept. 22.

Boder's attorneys, Jeremy Downs and Natasha VanLieshout, argued at a hearing in July that the case should be tossed because it relies entirely upon uncorroborated statements from other people who could be legally implicated in Nelson's death.

"There is no other direct evidence that puts Boder at the crime scene, nor direct evidence of any kind," the attorneys wrote in a brief. "There is no forensic evidence, no statement from Boder, no proof that he ever owned or possessed a gun, that he was ever seen with Nelson or even communicated with him."

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But Beiers, in a 10-page ruling earlier this month, sided with St. Louis County prosecutor Nate Stumme, who pointed to cellphone records and surveillance video, among other evidence, that he argued should be presented to jurors.

Witness accounts

Nelson, a father of five, was found sitting in a car on the 300 block of North 62nd Avenue West at about 1:45 a.m. Sept. 22. He had suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen and was quickly pronounced dead.

An area resident told police he heard a gunshot, followed by someone saying, "I'm sick of this s---," according to court documents. Residential surveillance videos also showed a car with three people leaving the area.

Days after the shooting, a key witness, Jamie Sanford, came forward to provide much of the information that later formed the basis of charging documents. Sanford told police that Nelson had given her a ride to the area so she could purchase drugs; she stated she got into a vehicle with Boder and drove a few blocks to complete the transaction.

Suddenly, Sanford stated, Nelson opened the door of Boder's car and "started beating up and trying to rob" him, according to court documents. After a physical confrontation, Nelson took off running. Boder, according to Sanford, then stated: "That f----- didn't get anything from me, but I'm going to get everything from him."

Peterson, James Michael.jpg
James Michael Peterson

Sanford remained with Boder and was joined by his roommate, Peterson, who carried a rifle. She told police she called Nelson, who told her he was "bored" and decided to rob some "random tweakers," not realizing it was Boder and Sanford in the car, according to documents.

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Sanford stated that she told Nelson to return to the scene to resolve the situation. She told police she planned to be there, but Boder and Peterson dropped her off at a Proctor gas station because Boder "did not want her to see what was going to happen." She said she then called Nelson to warn him not to be there, but he indicated he "was willing to talk it out."

According to filings, Sanford reported receiving a call from Peterson about an hour later. He was "crying and screaming, saying it didn't mean for it to escalate and he didn't know how the f--- it had happened." Sanford told police that Peterson hinted that Nelson was dead, also indicating a desire to leave the state.

Boder's nephew also told police that the defendant had called him between 6 and 7 a.m. Sept. 23 to ask him to help him move, according to the judge's order.

Video, alleged confession cited

Police said Boder's car, a 2005 Hyundai sedan, matched the one seen on surveillance video coming and going from the crime scene. A search warrant executed at Boder and Peterson's residence, 224 N. 62nd Ave. W., also led to the recovery of two gun cases and ammunition determined to be consistent with a spent cartridge found outside Nelson's vehicle.

Beiers noted that the investigation also led to evidence that Boder attempted to conceal evidence of his alleged involvement in Nelson's death. He reportedly called, and then visited, a woman and asked for a different shirt. The woman said Boder's girlfriend also asked her "to hold onto something," but she declined, according to court documents.

Another man reportedly told police he was at Pleasant View Mobile Home Park, 9428 Grand Ave., when Boder arrived and asked for some shoes on the morning on Nelson's death. Police said text messages between the men further suggest Boder was "trying to create an alibi."

Finally, the judge said, Boder allegedly admitted to a cellmate that he had shot Nelson and watched him crawl back to his truck. The inmate reported that Boder "claimed he had a good alibi and that they had not found the gun, only the bullet casing," according to records.

Boder's dismissal motion centered on Sanford's account, with Downs and VanLieshout contending that she should be declared an uncharged accomplice to the crime. Under Minnesota law, any accomplice testimony must be corroborated by other evidence in order to support a conviction — an instruction routinely given to jurors at trial.

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But prosecutor Stumme argued there was no evidence that Sanford helped plan the killing of Nelson or was even present at the time of the incident. To the contrary, he said she actively attempted to thwart the crime by calling Nelson while in the car with Boder and Peterson.

Trials tentatively scheduled

Beiers declined to classify Sanford as an accomplice, saying her actions "are subject to differing interpretations." Even so, the judge said a jury can look to surveillance video, the matching ammunition, other witness statements and Boder's alleged confession in considering his fate.

"Given all of the circumstances, there is sufficient corroboration for the matter to go forward," Beiers wrote.

Boder is set to stand trial Oct. 6, pending approval of a plan to resume jury trials in the 6th Judicial District.

Peterson's attorney has filed notice that he will challenge a number of issues, including probable cause, evidence collection and statements made by Peterson, 39, to police. He's scheduled to appear for a contested hearing Oct. 19.

Both defendants' girlfriends also have been charged with felony counts aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact.

Peterson's girlfriend, 30-year-old Amber Rose Louise Forrest, is accused of tampering with the scene of a search warrant , while Boder's girlfriend, 28-year-old Taylor Ann Fredrickson, allegedly provided a false alibi to police .

A Nov. 3 jury trial has been scheduled for Forrest. Fredrickson is set to appear for a contested hearing Oct. 8.

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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