Law officers assist at trial

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 14, 2001

Seven Mower County Sheriff’s Department and Austin Police Department personnel are providing security today as the trial of three murder suspects begins in Hastings.

Monday, May 14, 2001

Seven Mower County Sheriff’s Department and Austin Police Department personnel are providing security today as the trial of three murder suspects begins in Hastings.

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Four Sheriff’s Department deputies and three police officers were assigned the first day’s security detail, including transportation of the suspects from the OakPark Heights maximum security prison to the Dakota County district courtroom at Hastings.

The local contingent of peace officers assigned courtroom security duty will be rotated daily by each department.

The officers will commute to the Hastings courthouse and make the daily hour-and-20-minute trip.

In addition, local peace officers are expected to be called to testify when the trial begins.

Jury selection is expected to take the remainder of the week.

The trial began at 8:30 a.m. with the interviewing of prospective jurors.

The trial was moved to Hastings on a change of venue granted by Mower County Third Judicial District Court Judge Donald E. Rysavy.

Mower County Attorney Patrick A. Oman is prosecuting the case with the assistance of two state assistant attorneys general.

Each of the three defendants has a public defender representing their interests.

Vernon Neal Powers, 28, Scot Perry Christian, 30, and David Kenneth Christian, 29, all of St. Paul, are charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the June 30, 2000, shooting deaths of two St. Paul men and the wounding of another at the Downtown Motel in Austin.

Juan Vincente Ramirez, 41, and Raul Pedro Guiterrez, 26, both of St. Paul, were shot to death. Benjamin Moreno Hernandez, 31, also of St. Paul, was wounded in the robbery-killings crimes.

Jenea Larae-Nichole Weinand, 19, of St. Paul, will be tried separately in connection with the double-homicide.

Women report thefts

Two Racine, Wis., women reported $2,600 worth of clothes stolen from their room at the Downtown Motel, Austin.

According to an Austin Police Department report, the thefts occurred sometime between 5:30 p.m. Friday and 12:45 a.m. Saturday, while the women were dancing at a bar in downtown Austin.

No forcible entry was observed at the motel room.

Bar brawl

Eric Hardy, 34, of Austin, was arrested after an incident late Saturday evening at the Alaskan Bar in downtown Austin.

According to an Austin Police Department report, Hardy struck a bartender and a police officer with a pool cue after he began acting unruly.

Neither the bartender nor the police officer required medical attention.

He was placed in the Mower County Jail and faces two counts of second-degree felony assault when he appears in court.

Juveniles in trouble

The Mower County Sheriff’s Department received a report of theft of household items.

According to the report, a girl listed by her parents as a runaway gave a key to her parents’ home to friends and instructed them to go there and take items.

When the adults arrived home, they discovered the items missing.

The daughter returned home and Sheriff’s Department detectives are questioning suspects in the thefts.

In another juvenile incident Sunday, an 11-year-old female was sent to a security unit at St. Marys Hospital, Rochester.

The girl threatened to kill a another child after stabbing the child with a pencil and then vandalizing a mailbox.

E-commerce crime

ELKTON – Freddy Engelhardt of Elkton has reported being possibly bilked of as much as $60,000.

According to a report Engelhardt made to the Mower County Sheriff’s Department Saturday night, he purchased three collector’s edition automobiles via the Internet.

Engelhardt sent checks totaling $60,000 to a rural address in Ontario.

While waiting for the cars to arrive, questions arose over the authenticity of two of the vehicles. Engelhardt told a Sheriff’s Department detective that he contacted the seller in Canada and "backed out of the deal" and demanded his money back.

In the mean time, a relative went to a place in Michigan to take delivery on a 1963 Plymouth auto with a "Max-Wedge" racing engine and suspension.

When a friend of Engelhardt’s, Galen Govier, regarded as an expert on vintage autos, examined the 1963 auto, he discovered vehicle identification numbers on engine and transmission parts were changed.

He also discovered the vehicle was worth "a lot less than he paid for it," according to Engelhardt’s complaint.

The Canadian seller of the cars, Richard Brodrecht, has attempted to offer other vehicles in exchange for the two Engelhardt is refusing to accept.

According to Sheriff Barry J. Simonson, the crime represents a first for the Mower County Sheriff’s Department, because of the possible e-commerce fraud and international (Canada and United States) jurisdictions.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or e-mail him at