Following on the heels of a double-homicide in rural Minnesota, the same prosecutor has announced murder charges against five teenagers in Washington County, Minnesota. The county seat is in Stillwater, a river town which was incorporated in 1854 making it one of the oldest cities in Minnesota. According to Washington County Attorney, Pete Orput, third-degree murder charges were filed against Cole Alexander Matenaer (19); Alexander Lee Claussen (19); Sydney Claire Johnson (17); Alistair Curtis Berg (17); and Brian Phillip Norlander (17). Police believe the drug, “25iNBOME” (a psychoactive drug) was ingested by Tara Fitzgerald (17), and she died from an overdose on January 11th, 2014. The prosecutor’s theory is that each of the defendants handled or participated in the distribution of the drug which ultimately caused Fitzgerald’s death. Matenaer was arrested on January 13th of this year while he was driving a black Audi; 34 doses of a substance similar to the type used in the Fitzgerald homicide case were seized from the vehicle. At the time, Matenaer allegedly stated that the drugs were selling for $10.00 a unit.
Orput recently successfully prosecuted Byron Smith in a Little Falls, Minnesota double-murder case involving two teens who had broken into his house. In that case, the jury rejected Smith’s self-defense claims, and Smith received a life sentence. Orput had been specially recruited to prosecute that case.
Minnesota Law does not require intent when someone causes the death by providing a controlled substance to the person who dies. The “Guideline” sentence for this crime is approximately 150 months although different penalties are frequently agreed upon. All of the defendants are presumed to be innocent.
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