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Superior homicide trial set to begin

Jury selection is expected to start Tuesday morning for the trial of the teenager accused of fatally shooting a Superior man during a botched robbery attempt last fall.

Jury selection is expected to start Tuesday morning for the trial of the teenager accused of fatally shooting a Superior man during a botched robbery attempt last fall.

Chance William Andrews, 18, will stand trial in Douglas County Circuit Court on felony charges of first-degree reckless homicide and armed robbery in the Sept. 30 death of 20-year-old Garth Velin.

Judge George Glonek will preside over the trial, which is scheduled to last four days.

Andrews is just one of five young defendants charged in the case, but prosecutors have made his case a priority, hoping to secure a conviction against the alleged shooter before bringing the others to trial.

Velin was reported dead in his home on the 3700 block of East First Street in the city's Allouez neighborhood by his girlfriend, who was upstairs at the time. Authorities have alleged that Andrews and several co-defendants went to the home in an attempt to rob Velin before the plan went bad and ended with Andrews shooting Velin in the chest.

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The shooting sparked a frenzy of rumors and tips on social media, which helped investigators to determine suspects. Police made all five arrests within 24 hours of Velin's death.

It remains unclear who will take the witness stand against Andrews. So far, all five defendants have rejected plea offers from the the Douglas County Attorney's Office, defense attorney Ken Kratz wrote in a recent memorandum. Such a deal would require the co-defendants to cooperate in any jury trials that arise from the case.

District Attorney Dan Blank said at a hearing in late May that the co-defendants, who have been subpoenaed in Andrews' trial, could be ordered to testify under immunity - meaning that their testimony could not be used against them in their own trials. Anyone who refuses could be held in contempt of court.

Several co-defendants implicated Andrews in the shooting, according to court documents. His then-girlfriend, Teah Joan Phillips, allegedly told police that she waited in a car several blocks from Velin's house while Andrews said he was "going to get some money."

Andrews left, accompanied by co-defendants Kyham Lavon Dunn and Dallas Eugene Robinson, according to the criminal complaint. Phillips and Kane Michael Robinson, who also is charged as a party to the crime, were said to have stayed in the car.

When Andrews and the other men returned, Phillips said she learned that "it went bad." She said Andrews told her that he pulled a gun on Velin, but Velin grabbed it and was accidentally shot in the skirmish, according to the charges.

Andrews was arrested the next day in Duluth. He gave a brief statement to police but denied responsibility. However, prosecutors allege that he has made incriminating statements to several people, including his mother and sister, who have been subpoenaed to testify.

Kratz has not publicly revealed a defense strategy, but the attorney has noted in documents that the case could be difficult to prosecute, particularly if the district attorney does not gain the cooperation of at least one co-defendant.

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Andrews faced a felony murder charge, carrying up to 35 years in prison. But the judge approved Blank's request to up the charges last month, leaving Andrews to face up to 80 years behind bars if convicted.

To convict Andrews of the first-degree reckless homicide charge, jurors would need to find that he acted "under circumstances which show utter disregard for human life."

Andrews remains in the Douglas County Jail, where he is being held on $100,000 bail.

Since he has been in custody, authorities have charged him in three other criminal cases, including two battery by prisoner charges for separate incidents at the jail.

The case is expected to be heard by a pool of jurors from Douglas County, though Kratz previously filed a motion seeking an out-of-town jury because of the high-profile nature of case and significant local media coverage.

Glonek set that motion aside at Andrews' final pretrial hearing, saying he would only consider it if potential jurors exhibit biased attitudes.

As a felony-level case, a panel of 12 jurors, and probably several alternates, will need to be selected.

Related Topics: CRIMESUPERIOR
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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