Prosecutor says loss of temper led to Northland bar death
Paul Welle lost his temper and Dale Anderson lost his life. That's what St. Louis County prosecutor Rebekka Stumme told jurors in her opening statement Wednesday as Welle stands trial on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaught...
Paul Welle lost his temper and Dale Anderson lost his life.
That's what St. Louis County prosecutor Rebekka Stumme told jurors in her opening statement Wednesday as Welle stands trial on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in connection with Anderson's Nov. 9 death.
Welle, 33, punched Anderson outside the Powerhouse Bar in Proctor and the victim landed on the back of his head on concrete and died three days later from a brain hemorrhage.
Stumme told jurors they will hear testimony from people whom Welle has assaulted in the past.
"When Mr. Welle gets angry, or people disrespect him or don't do what he wants them to do, he reacts violently and he hurts people,'' she said.
Defense attorney Richard Holmstrom told jurors that if Stumme was presenting a picture of the events surrounding the fight at the bar, a frame belonged around that picture. He claimed that the prosecution was framing Welle by trying to construct a case against his client based on three prior cases in which the defendant was convicted of assaulting someone.
Holmstrom said Welle is guilty of no crime in this case and that his client was acting in self-defense. He said Anderson was the aggressor that night and that Welle threw only one punch after the victim first stomped on his foot and threw two punches at him.
Anderson, 60, was living in Blaine, Minn., when he died. He was born in Duluth, attended Duluth Central High School and served with the Army in Vietnam. He worked as a machinist with the Soo Line and the DM&IR Railway. He was a hospice volunteer in Minneapolis and was a member of the Patriot Guard of Minnesota, a motorcycle group that attends the funerals of military members killed in action and shields the mourning family from protesters.
The victim's daughter, Renee Anderson, testified that her father volunteered at her daughter's school, at a local hospice and was very involved in his church.
"He was very kind and gentle and patient and loving,'' Renee Anderson said. "He was the most amazing father. ... He was just the most amazing man in the world as far as I'm concerned. ... His granddaughter was his pride and joy."
The prosecution alleges that the fight started when a woman at the bar was overheard telling Anderson that Welle was hitting on her to go home with him and she didn't want to. Anderson allegedly told the woman that he would cover for her by telling Welle that he was her father.
Michael Wunch, who sometimes serves as a bouncer at the Powerhouse Bar but was a customer that night, said Welle's body language while the defendant was talking to Anderson gave him concern. He characterized Welle as the aggressor and said he heard Welle say to Anderson: "I don't like to be threatened. Let's go outside."
The 23-year-old woman, who the men were fighting about, testified that she was "very intoxicated" that night and remembers hardly anything other than meeting Anderson, him buying her a drink and showing her a picture. She said she didn't remember telling anyone that Welle wanted to go home with her.
Two young women friends of hers who were with her that night also testified. All three women said that Anderson was a cheerful, friendly man, who didn't say or do anything inappropriate at the bar. One of the women testified that Anderson asked her if Welle was bothering her and she said no, but that he might be bothering one of her friends.
Holmstrom told jurors in his opening statement that Anderson had good qualities, but that he displayed some bad qualities that night. Holmstrom said Anderson was offended when Welle came over to the women because he was no longer the center of attention and because Welle was dancing with the woman he had been dancing with.
The defense attorney said Anderson hollered something like: "I'm a Vietnam veteran and I've killed people before. You're not going to take this girl home. ... I'm going to destroy you."
Anderson had a blood-alcohol content of 0.20 percent, 2½ times the legal limit to drive. Welle fled the scene and wasn't tested.
Testimony continues today in State District Court in Duluth with Judge Mark Munger presiding.