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Remaining three suspects formally charged in Superior fatal shooting

Loud sobs echoed through a small courtroom at the Douglas County Courthouse on Friday afternoon, at times almost drowning out the court proceedings. A half-dozen police officers and bailiffs stood guard in a room filled over capacity with support...

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Loud sobs echoed through a small courtroom at the Douglas County Courthouse on Friday afternoon, at times almost drowning out the court proceedings.

A half-dozen police officers and bailiffs stood guard in a room filled over capacity with supporters of both the 20-year-old Superior man shot dead Tuesday evening and three of the young suspects charged in his slaying.

“There’s a lot of emotion and intensity on both sides,” District Attorney Dan Blank acknowledged following the proceedings. “Not just the family and friends of the victim, but the suspects accused and their families and friends.”

Blank’s office on Friday formally charged the three remaining suspects in Tuesday’s death of Garth Velin - Teah Joan Phillips, 17, of Superior; Dallas Eugene Robinson, 18, of Duluth; and Kane Michael Robinson, 20, of Duluth. Each made an appearance in Douglas County Circuit Court on a charge of party to felony murder.

On Thursday, Chance William Andrews, 17, of Superior was charged with felony murder, while Kyham Lavon Dunn, 20, of Duluth was charged as a party to the crime. They are in St. Louis County custody and must be extradited to Wisconsin to face the charges.

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Velin was shot once in the chest during what police described as a botched robbery attempt at his east Superior home. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Court Commissioner Rebecca Lovejoy on Friday set bail at $100,000 for Kane Robinson, $75,000 for Dallas Robinson and $50,000 for Phillips.

Lovejoy followed the bail recommendations made by Blank, who said the defendants were flight risks because of ties across state lines in Duluth, and cited the heightened emotions in the community following the well-publicized death of the young man.

“Quite honestly, part of my rationale is that they’re safest in the jail right now,” Blank said after the hearing.

James Babbitt, the attorney appointed to represent Phillips, had asked that she be released on a signature bond. Babbitt said she has a 4.0 grade-point average in school, and also described her as an athlete and volunteer coach.

 “I understand the seriousness of this offense. It is a horrible tragedy,” he said. “Ms. Phillips got involved with the wrong group. … She truly is a good person who got in with the wrong crowd.”

Superior attorney Lance Nelsen represented Kane Robinson. He did not make a bail recommendation, but called Blank’s suggestion of $100,000 “excessive.” Nelsen said his client is a lifelong resident of the Twin Ports, with significant family connections in the area.

Blank, however, noted that Robinson already has several criminal convictions to his name, including bail jumping, disorderly conduct, possession of THC and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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His younger brother, Dallas Robinson, was not represented by an attorney at the hearing. Blank asked for $75,000 bail, noting that the young defendant was recently convicted of disorderly conduct and is still on probation. Robinson did not respond to the bail recommendation.

Northwestern Wisconsin Chief Public Defender J. Patrick O’Neill informed the court that he was having some trouble finding enough public defenders to represent the defendants on such short notice.

In addition to finding an attorney for Dallas Robinson, the two defendants being held in Minnesota will likely need public defenders once they are extradited. Each co-defendant needs to be represented by a different attorney, and O’Neill is unable to advocate for any one client because he oversees all public defender services.

Blank said he is not yet sure when Andrews and Dunn will be transferred and make court appearances. He said they have at least initially refused to waive extradition hearings. Blank said a governor’s warrant could soon be issued to speed up the process.

Phillips and Kane Robinson are set to appear next for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday. Because he does not yet have an attorney, Dallas Robinson is scheduled for a status conference on Tuesday.

Blank and police officials stressed on Friday that the investigation of Velin’s death is still ongoing. The alleged murder weapon, a small pistol, is one piece of evidence that still has not been located.

Superior Deputy Police Chief Nicholas Alexander said investigators believe the statement given by Phillips on Wednesday is a fairly accurate summary of the events.

“We obviously have a strong belief that the information contained in the complaint is accurate, and we take steps to corroborate it by getting information from multiple sources that seems to be the same,” he said. “However, it’s an ongoing investigation. The complaint and arrests happened in the very beginning and that’s why the investigation continues, to seek the truth.”

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Phillips stated that she picked up the four other defendants and parked her car near a Subway restaurant in the Allouez neighborhood the evening of the incident, according to the complaint.

She stated that she was directed to knock on Velin’s door and tell him that she was looking for a lost puppy. When she returned to the car, the friends showed her a Facebook picture of Velin, and she confirmed that he was the one who answered the door.

Phillips stated that Andrews - her boyfriend - then left the car with Dunn and Dallas Robinson. The three returned a short time later and told her that “it went bad.” Phillips said she was told that Andrews pulled a gun during the dispute, Velin grabbed it, and it accidentally discharged during the struggle.

According to new information contained in criminal complaints filed Friday, the Robinson brothers voluntarily came to police headquarters on Wednesday and gave statements about the homicide.

Kane Robinson told police that only Andrews and Dunn got out of the car and returned about three minutes later, telling them to go, according to the complaint. He said Andrews would kill their families if they ever said anything about what happened.

Dallas Robinson told the same story, but later admitted that he did leave the car with Andrews and Dunn, the complaint states. He said the two went in the house, but he stayed outside. He said he could hear arguing inside, then what he believed to be a gunshot, before Dunn and Andrews came running out of the house.

When confronted with the information given by his brother, Kane Robinson started to cry and said that if his brother left the car, he didn’t see it, according to the complaint.

Hearing varying accounts of the incident is not surprising, Blank said, adding that it will probably continue in the courtroom as the cases unfold.

“There’s going to be a lot of finger-pointing, a lot of blaming and a lot of shenanigans on the real story,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge for law enforcement and my office to sort it out.”

Related Topics: CRIME
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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