Complaint details twin killings

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 6, 2000

They came to Austin to do business from the Downtown Motel.

Thursday, July 06, 2000

They came to Austin to do business from the Downtown Motel.

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But their illegal business plan went wrong.

The idea was to offer sex for sale, but the discovery by one of the prostitutes that a client had "hundreds and hundreds of dollars" hidden in a red rag changed everything.

Now, the "oldest profession" became a plan to rob.

Two men are dead and another wounded and five people, including two teen-agers, face murder charges.

A five-page criminal complaint filed in Mower County Third Judicial District Court details the crime that left two St. Paul roofers dead and a third injured.

It tells the story of a botched crime in which not only did the perpetrators fail to steal the money a prostitute said was there for the taking, but one of the gunmen left a shoe and his mask behind at the crime scene.

According to Austin Police Detective Thomas A. Stiehm’s complaint, here is what happened based on eyewitness statements given by a girl who has not been charged but traveled with the defendants.

The girl met Vernon Neal Powers, 27, of St. Paul, believed to be one of the shooters in the double homicide three weeks ago. She told officers she considered Powers to be her boyfriend.

On June 25, the girl was picked up by Powers and co-defendant Scott Perry Christian, 29, of St. Paul, and believed to be the second shooter in the homicides.

They also picked up three other women, including co-defendants Janet Elizabeth Hall, 18, of South Minneapolis, and Jenea Larae-Nichol Weinand, also 18, of St. Paul.

The group first traveled from St. Paul to Rochester, where they stayed in a motel that Sunday night, June 25.

Prostitution from motel room

The following morning, they traveled to Austin and checked into the Downtown Motel, where Hall and Weinand prostituted themselves from their motel room across First Avenue SE and the very public Austin Post Office.

Four days later, Powers and Scott Perry Christian returned to St. Paul to pick up another woman. While they were gone, Juan Vincente Ramirez, 41, of St. Paul, and one of five roofers staying in Room 28 at the Downtown Motel visited the room occupied by the women.

Ramirez and Weinand engaged in sex while the girl left the room.

When the girl returned, Ramirez was just leaving and she saw him fold a red rag or handkerchief that seemed to have something inside it.

When the man left, Weinand told the girl the man had "hundreds and hundreds of dollars in his red rag."

Weinand suggested robbing the man when Powers and Scott Perry Christian returned to Austin that night.

The two men returned late Thursday evening, June 29, with another woman and Weinand told them of the man with "lots of money on him" and suggested they rob him.

Powers and Scott Perry Christian agreed. Christian’s brother, David Kenneth Christian, 28, of St. Paul, also with the group, and the others packed their personal belongings into a 1999 Dodge Durango.

Fourth Street SE escape route

At about 2 a.m. Friday, David Kenneth Christian drove from the north annex of the Downtown Motel, which faces the Twin Towers apartment complex across Oakland Avenue East and parked the Durango in the wrong direction along First Street SE near the motel.

Powers and Scott Perry Christian took handguns from the center console of the vehicle. Christian also had a black mask and Powers pulled a portion of his clothing over his face and walked with Weinand to the room occupied by the five men; one of whom was a 14-year-old boy.

Weinand knocked on the door to the room and was allowed inside. She stuck her head into the room and then ran back to the Durango, while Powers and Scott Perry Christian entered the room.

According to Stiehm’s criminal complaint, one of the intruders – it is not known whom – yelled "Shoot them?" after the pair of gunmen demanded money.

Then they began to pistol whip the victims, while continuing to demand to know where the money was hidden.

Ramirez yelled for help and the gunmen opened fire.

Ramirez and Raul Pedro Guiterrez, 26, of St. Paul, were killed by multiple gunshot wounds. Three other occupants of the room survived the assault, including an unidentified adult, an unidentified 14-year-old boy and Benjamin Moreno Hernandez, 20, of St. Paul.

Powers and Scott Perry Christian ran back to the Durango and David Kenneth Christian drove away into the night.

As they drove toward St. Paul, Powers and Scott Perry Christian threw things from the vehicle into the Cedar River as they drove along Fourth Street SE in Austin.

Weinand registered anger. She told her accomplices they had "gotten the wrong money and the money they should have gotten was in a red rag."

Later authorities discovered a red bandana handkerchief belonging to Ramirez in the motel room. It contained $8,900 cash.

The empty wallet was found along Fourth Street SE.

Powers and Scott Perry Christian told the driver, David Kenneth Christian, and the women that once they got in the motel room, they "had to fight with people."

Powers lost one of the tennis shoes he was wearing.

Immediate results

The shoe and a mask were discovered in the motel room where the robbery took place.

When officers arrived at the crime scene at 2:10 a.m. Friday, witnesses said the defendants were observed loading personal belongings into a sports utility vehicle.

They also learned the vehicle’s license plate number and traced it to Gary Rollins, who leased it to Powers through a company called Gibraltar Management of Eagan. Rollins and Powers are friends and when the survivors of the shooting were shown his picture in a photo lineup, he was identified.

Austin police processed the crime scene at the Downtown Motel and issued a request-to-locate for the Durango. By 6:30 p.m. Friday, or less than 24 hours after the crimes were committed, the vehicle was located in St. Paul with two of the defendants inside; they were taken into custody. Later that same evening, three others were taken into custody at a St. Paul residence.

After questioning, authorities were certain they had the suspects in the crime and Austin police transported the defendants to the Mower County Jail in Austin to await a court appearance after Tuesday’s Independence Day holiday.

On Wednesday, Powers, both Christians, Weinand and Hall were each charged with two serious felony counts of aiding and abetting murder in the second degree, plus another serious felony count of aiding and abetting aggravated robbery in the first degree.

Mower County Third Judicial District Judge Donald A. Rysavy set bail for four of the suspects at $1 million each. Hall’s bail was set at $200,000.

After their first appearances in court Wednesday morning, they remain in the Mower County Jail, awaiting formal arraignment July 18.