Cotter faces arraignment

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Stacey Benjamin Cotter made his first appearance in Mower County Third Judicial District Court Monday morning.

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Stacey Benjamin Cotter made his first appearance in Mower County Third Judicial District Court Monday morning.

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Cotter, 24, was indicated by a Mower County grand jury a week ago on first-degree premeditated murder charges.

Watched over by Mower County Sheriff’s Detective Mark May and Deputy Martha Anderson, Cotter shuffled in ankle shackles before District Judge Donald E. Rysavy and politely answered all questions.

He is scheduled to return to court at 10 a.m. Friday for formal arraignment on the new charges.

David Voigt, a Minnesota assistant attorney general, and Mower County Attorney Patrick A. Oman appeared for the prosecution. Cotter’s twin court-appointed defense attorneys, Peggy Rockow-Eskwns and Tracy Bains, were not present for Monday’s first appearance of their client. The defense attorneys have requested an expert witness be allowed to testify for their client and Rysavy will review the request with the attorneys prior to Friday morning’s arraignment.

The June 6 first-degree murder indictment charges Cotter, who remains in the Mower County Jail under $500,000 bond, with two counts of first-degree felony murder, two counts of second-degree intentional murder and one count of first-degree arson.

Cotter was charged in connection with the stabbing death of his adopted father, Richard A. Cotter, 73, and the death of Mary Frances McIntyre, 68, Baltimore, Md.

Their bodies were discovered in the fire ruins at the Cotter home along 16th Avenue SE early Feb. 15. A fire apparently had been set to cover the homicides.

Cotter was arrested in the Twin Cities about 48 hours after the crimes were discovered in Austin Township.

An omnibus hearing was tentatively scheduled 1:30 p.m. Aug. 15 in Mower County District Court by Rysavy.

Busy summer ahead

After Monday morning’s first appearance by Cotter, attorneys Voigt and Oman answered reporters’ questions outside the courtroom.

Oman has spent the last four weeks assisting in the Minnesota attorney general’s successful prosecution of three suspects in the June 2000 Downtown Motel murders in Austin. That trial was moved to Dakota County District Court in Hastings on a change of venue.

Oman said the body of evidence collected by investigators into the double homicide of the prominent Austin attorney and his female companion in February warranted the first-degree indictment.

He said Voigt and Dockerty will be the primary attorneys in the state’s prosecution of the defendant.

Still another murder case await’s the district court’s attention this summer.

Troy Alan Meyer, 34, of Austin, was charged in connection of a death of a man, when a flash-fire explosion occurred at a methamphetamine laboratory in a southwest Austin home on Jan. 13.

Oman said the steadily increasing caseload of the Mower County attorney’s office continues to concern him. The caseload has nearly doubled in the last four years, prompting the county attorney to request additional legal help from the Mower County Board of Commissioners.

"Whenever something like this happens and the criminal caseload nearly doubles in only three or four years, there is the risk that justice will suffer," he said.

Oman and the Minnesota attorney generals, who prosecuted the three suspects in Hastings, still face more legal fallout from that case.

One of the suspects, David Kenneth Christian, will be sentenced in Mower County District Court next month on his second-degree murder conviction.

Also the defendant and his brother, Scott Perry Christian, and Vernon Neal Powers, all face charges in connection with the March 25 escape from the Mower County Jail.

Then a fourth suspect held in connection with the June 2000 double homicide at the Austin motel, Jenea Larae-Nichole Weinand, must appear in court on the murder charges.

Finally, there is Gabrielle Skye Holvick of Austin, who is being held in the Mower County Jail on charges of aiding and abetting the escape of the three men who were convicted last week.

While both the victims of the Downtown Motel murders last summer and the defendants in the case — except for Holvick who drove a getaway car after the jail escape – were all from the Twin Cities, the Cotter-McIntyre homicide case presents a different set of circumstances.

The retired attorney and his wife, Beverly, from whom he was divorced, raised a family of 10 children: five biological and five adopted. He practiced law for decades in a prominent Austin firm and the family was active in church, school and social activities.

So much more is known about the victims and the suspect held in connection with the Cotter-McIntyre homicides.

Oman was asked whether he anticipated another change-of-venue request from Stacey Benjamin Cotter’s defense attorneys.

"That is entirely up to the defense attorneys to make that request," Oman said.

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