Suspect pleads guilty in Duluth store robbery and shooting
A Saginaw man on Friday admitted to his role in a botched robbery attempt that resulted in a Duluth business owner being shot in the chest. Robert William Neft, 32, pleaded guilty in State District Court to a charge of attempted second-degree mur...
A Saginaw man on Friday admitted to his role in a botched robbery attempt that resulted in a Duluth business owner being shot in the chest.
Robert William Neft, 32, pleaded guilty in State District Court to a charge of attempted second-degree murder for his role in the Dec. 23 incident at the iLF,cq, Smartphone Clinic on London Road. As part of a plea agreement, the prosecution dismissed a charge of aggravated first-degree robbery.
The agreement calls for Neft to serve 12½ years in prison. Judge Shaun Floerke accepted the plea and ordered a presentence investigation into Neft’s background prior to sentencing, which has been scheduled for April 14.
Co-defendant Brandon James Tyson, 30, of Duluth, could receive a similar deal when he appears for a plea hearing Monday.
Neft’s defense attorney, Mikkel Long, informed the court that the 150-month term is slightly below the guideline range. He said the agreement also stipulates that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will agree not to pursue any charges against Neft in federal court.
Assistant St. Louis Count Attorney Jon Holets, who is prosecuting both Neft and Tyson, said the agreement was the only offer he was willing to make.
In his testimony Friday, Neft admitted that he played a role in the burglary, but downplayed his involvement and portrayed Tyson as the aggressor. Neft said he and Tyson went to the store with his fiancé to drop off her phone for repairs when they got the idea to rob the store.
“She went in and we decided we’d rob it together,” he said.
The robbery was not conceived ahead of time, he said. Tyson carried a pistol and Neft carried a BB gun, but that was routine for them, Neft said, and not part of the burglary plan. And the masks they wore during the robbery were leftover from Halloween.
When they entered the shop, “I froze,” Neft said. Tyson began screaming at owner Colin Mackin before hitting him in the head and knocking him to the ground.
Neft said he dropped his BB gun on the floor and exited the shop. The struggle between Tyson and Mackin continued outside. He said he was a half-block away from the shop when Mackin got shot.
“I saw (Mackin) fighting with Tyson on the ground,” he said. “I wasn’t aware that he got shot until later in the night.”
Neft admitted that they got away with several Apple iPads and a MacBook-Pro laptop computer that belonged to Mackin. He said he and Tyson later got into an argument over how the robbery happened.
Mackin was present at the plea hearing. He said he’s feeling OK and has recovered well since being hospitalized for his injuries for several days over Christmas.
Mackin said Neft was less than honest in his version of the results, but that he was pleased, nonetheless, with the guilty plea.
“I’m happy with the outcome and I’m glad that it’s all going to be over with soon,” he said. “Some of the facts - if it mattered - I’d challenge, but as long as we’re reaching the same outcome, I’m satisfied.”
Above all else, Mackin said he’s just happy to still be alive to see Neft and Tyson brought to justice.
“It’s by the Grace of God that I’m alive today,” he said. “These guys are going to have plenty of time to think about that.”