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Our view: No winners as case concludes in Duluth's lone murder of 2007

One young man is dead. Another's life is devastated. "No one is happy," St. Louis County prosecutor Gary Bjorklund said yesterday. "It's a tragedy," Bjorklund told the News Tribune after Luis Mark Hogan admitted in court to taking a gun from Iraq...

One young man is dead. Another's life is devastated. "No one is happy," St. Louis County prosecutor Gary Bjorklund said yesterday.

"It's a tragedy," Bjorklund told the News Tribune after Luis Mark Hogan admitted in court to taking a gun from Iraq war soldier Adam Sheda, placing it under Sheda's chin and firing last summer. Bjorklund's words were as good as any to sum up Duluth's only murder of 2007, even if words -- any words -- are incapable of bringing peace or consolation to survivors left in the wake of an incident that didn't have to happen, of a confrontation that didn't have to transpire.

Sheda and Hogan didn't know each other and had no beef with each other. Sheda happened upon Hogan's East Hillside home on June 30 with cash and a desire to join a party, according to reports. But he somehow ended up in Hogan's yard, and someone snatched Sheda's cash, and Sheda took a swing at Hogan, and the violence began, first with fists. In the scuffle, Sheda lost his wallet, which contained $1,600. Hogan and his brother found and returned the wallet and asked Sheda to leave. He didn't. Instead he called the brothers a name that prompted another round of fisticuffs.

The prosecutor asked Hogan in court yesterday who was getting the better of the fight. The defendant tearfully said he was to the point he was able to get Sheda's Derringer-style pistol away from him. Before firing, he yelled "187," Hogan confessed, a reference to the section of the California Penal Code that deals with murder.

The case shocked Duluth, not only because it was a violent crime but because there was something in both men anyone could identify with. Hogan had a job at the time and no record of violent crime. Sheda had returned to the Northland just a little over a week earlier from a tour of duty with the Army National Guard in Iraq.

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The case won't go to trial, and for that there's some relief. As Bjorklund said, "A trial, I think, would have been very emotional and difficult for both families." Instead, Hogan agreed to plead guilty to unintentional second-degree murder and to serve 12½ years in prison. He had been facing a charge of intentional second-degree murder and more than 25 years in prison.

Despite successfully negotiating a plea agreement, "we didn't walk away winners," Bjorklund said. No one did. In this incident, no one possibly could have been left happy.

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