DULUTH, Minn. — When Darrel Darryl Mayhew entered a home on Duluth’s Park Point and struck 70-year-old Larry Watczak over the head with a bottle, he got away with roughly $2 in cash, a tablet computer and a cellphone.
That decision, no matter how rash, will cost Mayhew the next 20 years of his life. But it cost Watczak his life.
“Somewhere down the road, he will be released from prison and people may say he has paid his debt to society,” the victim’s brother, Jeff Watczak, said Monday, June 17. “Maybe so, but he will never repay the debt he owes to the friends and family of Larry Watczak.”
Darrel Darryl Mayhew, 31, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on June 17, 2019. Mayhew earlier pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 70-year-old Larry Watczak at his Duluth home in January. Prosecutors say Mayhew, a burglar, struck Watczak in the head with a bottle. Watczak died ten days later. (Forum News Service)
St. Louis County District Judge Dale Harris sentenced Mayhew to an above-guideline prison term after hearing several victim-impact statements from Watczak’s family and friends.
Mayhew, 31, representing himself in court, pleaded guilty last month to a charge of unintentional second-degree murder in the Jan. 2 attack. He agreed to the aggravated sentence on the basis that the crime occurred at Watczak’s home, where he had an expectation of privacy.
Mayhew testified at his plea hearing that he was looking for work and stopped to visit an acquaintance on Park Point before ending up at Watczak’s residence. He said he knocked on the door but didn’t receive any response, so he entered through the unlocked door.
Mayhew said he found Watczak on the couch watching TV. He admitted that he struck the victim with a bottle and then threw a blanket over his head, demanding money before leaving with the handful of belongings. Watczak was able to briefly speak with police officers before he slipped into a coma. He died 10 days later.
St. Louis County prosecutor Vicky Wanta said the 20-year sentence is “as fair as we can be.”
Watczak spent his career working as a mechanic, retiring from Minnesota Power. Family and friends described him as a “motorhead” who loved classic cars.
Erik Watczak said he still finds himself picking up the phone to call his father, only to remember that he’s gone.
“Mr. Mayhew, with his actions, stole a father, grandfather, brother and a great friend to others,” he said. “Every day I have to deal with another aspect of not having my father in my life.”
Mayhew repeatedly apologized to the family before receiving his sentence.
“I want to say sorry to the family, and I know how you feel,” he said. “I love you all. If you don’t forgive me, I understand.”
Erik Watczak disputed the sincerity of the defendant’s remorse, calling his letter to the family “pitiful.”
“The fact that Mr. Mayhew could even fathom hitting an elderly man over the head with a bottle escapes me,” he said. “I believe he has no consideration for anyone other than himself — or a conscience, for that matter.”
Two teenage boys are accused of fatally shooting a Maple Grove man in an attempted carjacking last week in Minneapolis.
The teens were charged Monday in juvenile court for their roles in the death of 39-year-old Steven Markey, but the Hennepin County attorney’s office has asked that they be tried as adults.
Jered Ohsman, 16, of Coon Rapids faces two counts of second-degree murder in Markey’s death and one count each of burglary, motor vehicle theft and fleeing a peace officer in a related case, according to the juvenile petition filed against him in Hennepin County District Court.
His alleged accomplice — a 15-year-old boy identified in court documents as H.B. — was also charged, but because he is under 16, information about his charges cannot be released publicly unless he is tried as an adult, the county attorney’s office said.
Ohsman and H.B. allegedly approached Markey last Tuesday afternoon as he was sitting in his parked car near 14th Avenue and Tyler Street in Northeast Minneapolis. Armed with pistols, the pair ordered Markey out of his vehicle, according to court documents.
During the robbery, the boys allegedly shot Markey, who attempted to drive off but crashed his car about a block away. He later died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Ohsman said he shot Markey because he believed Markey may have reached for a gun, but H.B. told investigators that he believed Ohsman shot Markey because Markey laughed at the boys, court documents said. Both admitted to firing their guns, according to the juvenile petition against Ohsman.
The boys then ditched their guns and changed their clothes, before stealing an SUV in St. Louis Park later that night and burglarizing a pair of cellphone stores, the juvenile petition said. Police caught up with the boys in New Hope, where they crashed the SUV as they fled officers on U.S. 169, according to court documents.
Ohsman and H.B. were arrested and remain in custody.
Police have arrested a St. Paul man accused of shooting a woman and leaving her for dead in the middle of a road in rural Washington County.
Luis Alfredo Cortez Mendoza, 23, was arrested Saturday in Minneapolis by the Minneapolis Police Department in connection with the shooting of a 39-year-old St. Paul woman. She was found shot in the middle of a May Township road about 2:30 a.m. June 9.
Luis Alfredo Cortez Mendoza (Courtesy of Washington County Sheriff)
An Uber driver found the woman near the intersection of St. Croix Trail North and 124th Street North; the woman, whose name was not being released due to safety concerns, was treated at a metro-area hospital. Police are searching for a second suspect in connection with the shooting, according to a complaint filed Monday in Washington County District Court.
Mendoza appeared in Washington County District Court on Monday on charges of attempted first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang, attempted second-degree murder for the benefit of a gang and kidnapping for the benefit of a gang. Bail was set at $2 million.
He will next appear in Washington County District Court in Stillwater at 9 a.m. Monday.
On June 2, the body of Jose Natividad Genis Cuate, 47, of Minneapolis, was found in a wetland area about 10 miles northwest of where the woman’s body was found. Cuate died as a result of homicide, officials said.
His body was found on a Sunday afternoon in the 17600 block of Manning Trail by a man who lives near the area. He discovered the body near a culvert while driving home from a graduation open house.
The Sheriff’s Office is still investigating. Thomson-Dougherty Funeral Home in Minneapolis is handling arrangements, according to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office.
For decades, Minnesota has resisted allowing cameras in courtrooms for the usual arguments — lawyers would grandstand, witnesses would be intimidated, decorum would be disrupted if public proceedings were recorded and broadcast.
Under rules that allowed the judge, prosecutors or defense attorneys to veto camera coverage during the trial phase, seeing a Minnesota trial on TV “would be as common as running into a unicorn in deer hunting season,” as media attorney Mark Anfinson put it.
But video coverage of high-profile sentencings — which don’t require approval from the parties involved — is giving a more frequent glimpse inside Minnesota courts. That’s cheered advocates of openness in the court system, even as they wish for easier access at the trial phase.
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor reads a statement before being sentenced by Judge Kathryn Quaintance in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis on June 7, 2019. Noor was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison for the fatal shooting of Damond, who had called 911 to report a suspected crime. (LEILA NAVIDI/AFP/Getty Images)
“It’s a definite first step. It’s not the finish line,” said Anfinson, who has seen an increasing number of video requests from news organizations since the state court system launched a pilot project in 2015.
When former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was sentenced this month to 12½ years in prison for fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond while answering her 911 call in 2017, viewers could see and hear Noor’s halting delivery as he apologized, hear the victim’s fiance Don Damond mourn the future he and his bride-to-be would not share, and hear the judge tell Noor “Good people sometimes do bad things” as she rejected his plea for leniency.
Showing courtroom action goes beyond artists’ sketches and allows people to see and hear it for themselves, said Suki Dardarian, senior managing editor at Minnesota’s largest newspaper, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.
“You really do, as a member of the community, get to experience it yourself when you hear Justine Damond’s fiance speak, when you heard Noor speak, when you hear the judge speak. You couldn’t help but feel the emotion each of those people felt,” Dardarian said.
She said to witness that through video — “without anyone being in the way” — is “pretty powerful.”
Noor’s sentencing coincided with cameras filming other high-profile cases recently in Hennepin County, including the man who threw a 5-year-old Woodbury boy off a balcony at the Mall of America and a teenager who crashed a stolen SUV into a pickup truck, killing three people in Minneapolis.
Minnesota is more conservative than neighbors Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota in allowing cameras in courts. Defense attorneys who don’t want their clients on camera, victims’ advocates who worry about victims being traumatized again, judges and prosecutors have opposed expanding Minnesota’s rules, Anfinson said. (The Minnesota County Attorneys Association said it would implement the new rules but was “strongly opposed to any further expansion of audio and video coverage in criminal cases.”)
But Anfinson added: “There’s just no support at all that really can demonstrate empirically that these concerns are well grounded.”
Don Damond, the fiance of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, reads a victim impact statement before the sentencing at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis Friday, June 7, 2019, before the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool)
Modern cameras are unobtrusive, and gone are the days of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial “where you had to run and call it in,” said University of Minnesota professor Jane Kirtley, who directs the Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law.
And while the sensational O.J. Simpson murder trial of 25 years ago is “the poster child of why cameras in the court are a bad thing” to many judges, Kirtley said, those trial’s excesses “had very little to do within the courtroom.”
Washington County’s lead prosecutor, Pete Orput, said he has no problem with the new sentencing rules and would like to see electronic coverage expanded as long as victims are protected. Doing so would help people understand what goes on in courts, he said.
“Why not publicize a trial? It doesn’t have to be a circus,” Orput said.
But Twin Cities defense attorney Marsh Halberg isn’t as positive about cameras in court, even though he thinks their use will only grow.
“What I don’t like is the 15-second sound bites at the 6 o’clock news that comes from it,” Halberg said. “It can paint things in a distorted way.”
Advocates for increased camera coverage point to Wisconsin and the kidnapping of 13-year-old Jayme Closs. Court hearings for Jake Patterson, who pleaded guilty to and was sentenced for kidnapping Jayme and killing her parents, were covered by TV and still photographers and livestreamed without apparent problems.
Anfinson, the media lawyer, said such access can have “cathartic effects” for a community “when you see real justice being done.”
“Yes, it’s happening. We didn’t just hear about it, read about it. We saw justice being done in what was a terrible case,” Anfinson said.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson, a partner with Halberg in a Bloomington law firm, represented Levi Acre-Kendall, who was acquitted in a man’s April 2015 stabbing death along the St. Croix River in western Wisconsin. Nelson said cameras created no distraction at that trial.
“You kind of forget until the end of the day” that a camera was in the courtroom, Nelson said.
KSTP-TV assignment manager Daren Sukhram, who handles the St. Paul station’s requests for camera coverage, said cameras that go into court are “just showing what happens hundreds of times a month at regular court hearings around the state.”
He said electronic media should be treated no differently than other forms of communication.
“No reporter has been banned from court for bringing in pen and paper,” he said. “So why are we not allowed to bring a camera in there?”
The case against a Minneapolis woman accused of setting small fires on St. Catherine University’s campus and trying to travel to Afghanistan to join Al-Qaida remains on hold as questions regarding her competency to stand trial are weighed.
Tnuza Hassan appeared in federal court in St. Paul Monday afternoon via video conference for a brief hearing. It consisted of little more than attorneys for the prosecution and defense acknowledging they read the most recent competency report compiled on the 21-year-old.
Tnuza Jamal Hassan
The findings of the report were not made public as they pertain to confidential medical issues.
At one point, U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Rau asked Hassan if she had also reviewed the report. Hassan said she had not.
“I haven’t been informed about anything,” she told the judge. “I have talked to my family and they haven’t learned much either, so I was kinda surprised by this court date today.”
Rau asked her defense attorney and the federal prosecutor to huddle at his bench briefly to discuss her response before telling Hassan that while she had a right to be present for her competency hearing, she didn’t “necessarily” have the right to provide any input.
Rau excused the court shortly thereafter.
The court ruled in January to delay Hassan’s trial as “there (was) reasonable cause to believe (she) may be presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rending her mentally incompetent to the extent that she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against her or to assist properly in her defense,” according to the court filing.
A competency report was ordered along with a hearing to review it once it was completed.
Hassan is being held in a facility in Texas, where she is receiving psychiatric and medical care, according to legal documents.
Her mother and sister attended Monday’s hearing.
Both said afterward that they had received little information on the status of Hassan’s case. They speak to her by phone whenever she’s able to call.
The date of her next hearing was not immediately available.
A former Lakeville middle school principal was sentenced Monday to 8 ½ years in prison for identity theft, stalking and burglary.
Christopher Jerome Endicott, 51, of Apple Valley, previously pleaded guilty in Dakota County District Court to two counts each of gross misdemeanor stalking and felony burglary in connection with a rash of crimes that he blamed on “financial ruin.” On Feb. 1, Endicott pleaded guilty to felony identity theft.
Christopher Jerome Endicott
In addition to giving Endicott 102 months behind bars, Judge Tim Wermager also ordered him to pay nearly $20,000 to 14 victims, which include former colleagues, neighbors and in-laws, as well as an Apple Valley police officer.
“This is not your typical grab your wallet or purse and get the credit card and commit an offense,” Wermager said. “This involved using technology to really invade the private lives of the individuals that Mr. Endicott either worked with or his family members.”
The Dakota County attorney’s office sought an aggravated upward departure, which would have added up to 13 years and six months in prison.
Meanwhile, Endicott’s attorney, Bruce Rivers, asked for probation, based upon Endicott’s ongoing therapy and “amenability to probation.”
As part of the plea agreement with prosecutors, one count each of gross misdemeanor theft and felony financial transaction card fraud were dismissed at Monday’s sentencing. The two stalking charges were also reduced from felony level.
Before joining Century Middle School in Lakeville as its principal in 2012, Endicott was the assistant principal at Dakota Hills Middle School in Eagan, which is in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district. He resigned in May 2018.
Lakeville schools Superintendent Michael Baumann was one of the five people who addressed the court during Monday’s sentencing hearing, reading a statement on behalf of Century Middle School staff, the “community and the families we serve.”
Baumann asked the judge to give Endicott the maximum sentence possible.
“I can state unequivocally that Chris Endicott traumatized the staff, community and families of Century Middle School,” he said. “Unfortunately, he continues to do so to this very day.”
Baumann described Endicott as “extremely skilled in the use of technology” who “inserted himself in the configuration and administration” of the school’s technology systems. Endicott went into employee offices, desks and purses to gain access to personal information “necessary to steal the identities of many innocent victims,” he said.
“As a result, they will continue to fear the ramifications of his actions today, tomorrow and for years to come,” he said.
The allegations against Endicott surfaced in January 2018 after Apple Valley police said someone from his home accessed a phone and an iPad that belong to the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district, where his wife worked as a counselor and teacher.
Endicott later would be accused of stealing personal and financial information from employees of the school district, their family members and others.
Search warrants were executed at Endicott’s work and Apple Valley home, and computers and other electronic equipment were seized. Analysis of the electronics revealed significant personal and financial information about school employees and others, the charges say.
Investigators discovered Endicott made purchases using their credit cards and wrote about accessing several accounts. In one writing, Endicott indicated that he was in “financial ruin,” according to charges.
In March 2018, Endicott was accused of burglary for breaking into his next-door neighbors’ home in Apple Valley in 2015 while they were away, prying open a safe and stealing two rings. The rings were found in Endicott’s file cabinet at Century Middle School in February and traced back to the neighbors.
Also in March 2018, he was charged with second-degree burglary and theft for allegedly stealing sports cards in late 2017 from someone who rented his house. An employee of a sports memorabilia store put a value of $738 on the stolen cards, charges said.
Before Monday’s convictions, Endicott had not had a criminal record in Minnesota, other than a speeding conviction in Dakota County in 2011, court records show.
Jason Tate Sr. spent Father’s Day in a hospital bed in the intensive care unit at Regions Hospital as his 3-year-old daughter sized him up from his bedside.
“She was scared so she didn’t want to touch him, but at the same time, when we were leaving she cried because she didn’t want him to stay there,” Laquita Tate recalled of her little girl’s first encounter with her dad since Jason Tate was shot and critically wounded June 9.
A woman who told police she dated Jason Tate for 10 months said she pulled the trigger out of self defense after he started hitting her and threatening her life while the two were looking for a place to eat that evening, according to the criminal complaint filed against Tametria Shavondra Gillespie last week.
Tametria Shavondra Gillespie, 40
Authorities found surveillance video of the incident that tells a different story, and charged the 40-year-old woman with one count of attempted murder.
Laquita Tate has been trying to understand what happened as her husband of the past five years drifts in and out of consciousness and doctors work to stabilize his condition.
The father of five still has feeding and breathing tubes and was headed into surgery to repair a fracture to his spine Monday morning that will hopefully allow him to sit up.
He was shot in his arm and torso, and bullets struck his spine and lungs, Laquita Tate said.
For now, he’s paralyzed from the waist down, but with intensive in-patient therapy down the road, it’s possibly he’ll regain the use of his legs someday, she said.
“The doctors aren’t guaranteeing anything. They say it will be up to him,” Laquita Tate said Monday. “(Jason) doesn’t know what happened. … He squeezes my hand and looks over and asks me what happened. I tell him he got shot and he just shakes his head no.”
Laquita and Jason got married at a courthouse in Minneapolis five years ago after meeting in Iowa. Jason Tate already had two children, and he and Laquita Tate went on to have three more.
Together they parent five children between the ages of 1 and 12, Laquita Tate said. She works full-time as a dietary aid while he stays home to take care of the kids.
They’ve run into challenges over the years and the past two months their relationship has been on and off, Laquita Tate said, adding that Jason Tate was staying at his sister’s while the two tried to work things out.
That’s likely when he started seeing Tametra Gillespie, Laquita Tate said, noting that she doesn’t believe the woman’s account to police that their relationships started about 10 months ago.
She also doesn’t believe that a man who was never violent toward her would hit someone over an argument about where to grab food, she said.
“That’s just not him,” Laquita Tate said.
She wonders if the incident was triggered by Jason Tate trying to end things with Gillespie as he and Laquita decided to reconcile, she said Monday.
“We have five kids together. We live together. We always planned on getting back together,” she said.Related Articles
Gillespie, 40, called police after she shot Jason Tate a little after 10 p.m. June 11. She told officers who responded to the scene at Rice Street and Larpenteur Avenue that she and Jason Tate had been driving around Roseville that evening when they started arguing about getting something to eat, according to the criminal complaint.
That’s when she said Jason Tate started repeatedly striking her in the face and threatening to kill her, so she shot him, Gillespie told officers.
Video footage obtained from a business nearby reveals holes in Gillespie’s account, authorities say.
It shows Jason Tate walking on Larpenteur Avenue toward a driveway in the 1600 block of Rice Street as Gillespie’s Honda pulls into the driveway, stopping his path, according to the criminal complaint filed in the case.
The footage then reportedly shows Gillespie get out of her vehicle and “strike or thrust” toward Jason Tate three times before he is seen falling to the ground.
Laquita Tate didn’t find out what happened until she was called to the hospital by her husband’s sister. It took authorities time to identify his family because he didn’t have an ID on him when he was shot, she said.
“It’s hard,” she said. “I’ve never had to deal with the kids all on my own and trying to work. I had to take a leave of absence. … He was my babysitter. He watched the kids everyday. Knowing my kids can’t see him is probably hurting me the worst. They ask about him every day.”
She was hesitant to let the children see him while he was still hooked up to a breathing tube. But when the doctors took it out temporarily on Father’s Day, she decided it was time.
The whole family huddled in his hospital room to mark the occasion.
The older kids moved in for hugs, but the youngest, unsure of the man in the hospital bed, hung back.
Jason was alert while they were there, and smiled at his kids, Laquita Tate said, but they couldn’t understand his meek whispers when he tried to speak.
An attorney for star Minnesota heavyweight wrestler Gable Steveson says Steveson was shocked by his weekend arrest on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct and is cooperating with police.
Gable Steveson, left, and Dylan Martinez
Steveson and teammate Dylan Martinez were jailed in Hennepin County on Monday. KSTP-TV, citing jail records, reports that the men were arrested Saturday night at different locations in Minneapolis following a 911 call a night earlier.
MINNEAPOLIS — Nationally ranked University of Minnesota heavyweight wrestler Gable Steveson and a teammate have been arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct.
KARE-TV reports that an Athletics Department statement to the station confirmed the two men arrested were on the wrestling team. They have not been charged.
KSTP-TV reports that jail records show Steveson, an Apple Valley native, and Dylan Martinez were arrested Saturday night at different times and places in Minneapolis. Authorities have not released details.
Steveson was a four-time state champion at Apple Valley High School and was ranked No. 3 nationally at the end of the season by a respected rankings service. Martinez was a transfer from Fresno City College.
The Athletics Department says they’ve been suspended from team activity pending further information. It says federal and state law precludes releasing further details.
Searchers on Sunday recovered the body of a 53-year-old Oak Grove man they believe drowned in Lake George the day before, authorities said.
Shortly after noon on Saturday, the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a man drowning at Lake George Beach in Oak Grove, according to Lt. Dan Douglas, Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.
Douglas said a 53-year-old who had removed his life jacket and was swimming near a boat began to struggle and then went under water.
The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit responded to the scene and began an extensive rescue and recovery mission with help from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and several area fire departments.
The marine unit found the man’s body around 1 p.m. Sunday.
Additional information will be provided when positive identification is made by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office.