Fifth suspect held in killings at motel

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 4, 2000

A fifth suspect in the double homicide at an Austin motel will be among four others already arrested who will be arraigned Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 04, 2000

A fifth suspect in the double homicide at an Austin motel will be among four others already arrested who will be arraigned Wednesday.

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Janet Elizabeth Hall, 19 of Minneapolis, was arrested Sunday in the Twin Cities area and was returned to the Mower County Jail in Austin.

According to Austin Police Chief Paul M. Philipp, Twin Cities area law enforcement also recovered both weapons believed to have been used in the shootings Sunday at an undisclosed Twin Cities area residence.

According to a spokesman for the Mower County attorney’s office, reports from law enforcement officials are being reviewed today.

Because of the Independence Day holiday, the five suspects are expected to make their first appearance before a Mower County Third Judicial District judge Wednesday.

Special extensions to hold the suspects were obtained by the county attorney’s staff.

Vernon Neal Powers, 27, Scott Perry Christian, 29, David Kenneth Christian, 28, and Jenea Larae-Nichol Weinand, 18, are being held in the Mower County Jail in connection with the robbery-murder of roofers early Friday at the Downtown Motel in Austin.

They were all arrested late last Friday in the Twin Cities after the vehicle they apparently used to flee the scene of the robbery-murder was tracked down.

Two people were killed and another wounded when three gunmen burst into Room 28 at the Downtown Motel, 209 First Ave. NE, at 2:11 a.m. Friday.

Killed by multiple gunshot wounds were Juan Vincente Ramirez, 41, and Raul Pedro Guiterrez, 26. A third man, Benjamin Moreno Hernandez, 20, suffered gunshot wounds to both hands and is recovering in fair condition at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.

Philipp announced Saturday afternoon that the four suspects had been arrested late Friday evening after a 1999 Dodge Durango believed to have been driven by the suspects was spotted in St. Paul.

Austin police had observed the vehicle in Austin prior to the robbery-murder at the Downtown Motel and had both a description and the Minnesota license number.

The Austin police chief credited several Twin Cities metro area law enforcement agencies with the quick apprehension of the suspects. Two other roofers survived the robbery-murder and gave information to authorities about the crime.

What precipitated the incident has not been divulged by authorities. The survivors said a woman knocked on the motel room door and two masked men burst in with guns to demand money.

The survivors, who all were unarmed, told the intruders they had no money, but the robbers ransacked their personal possessions in the motel room, pistol-whipped at least one of the victims and then started shooting, according to police reports.

Today, the police chief remained tight-lipped about much of the details of the crime.

"All of the people we have arrested were at the scene of the crime, but not all of them participated in the shootings," he said.

He did confirm that Powers and Scott Perry Christian were the apparent shooters in the crime. "Mr. Powers has a lengthy criminal record and according to that record has been involved in several shooting incidents in the Twin Cities area," he said.

While Powers is known to be affiliated with the Crips gang, the chief also said, "We don’t think this crime was not gang-related in any way."

What is emerging from several sources is that the robbery-murder was related to prostitution in Austin. Six to eight women who engage in prostitution in Austin were interviewed.

The men arrested in the robbery-murder were seen in Austin a couple days before the crime in the company of the women also arrested in connection to the crime.

What is know, is that one of the women arrested knocked on the motel room door to gain the sleeping occupants’ attention. Two of the males, Powers and Scott Perry Christian, then entered the room, police said.

The other individuals arrested were in the Dodge Durango parked nearby.

After the shootings, the two gunmen took some undisclosed items from the room and ran to the Durango and drove away.