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Jason Adkins, Detroit Lakes Tribune, Published September 24 2009

Shooting accomplice sentenced

MAHNOMEN, Minn. – The wife of injured Mahnomen County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Dewey implored during a sentencing hearing Wednesday for Daniel Kurt Vernier to answer why her husband was shot earlier this year.

Vernier, the admitted accomplice of the man accused of shooting Dewey, was sentenced Wednesday to 24 months in prison for his role in the incident.

Emily Dewey, in making her first visit back to Mahnomen since her husband was transferred to Colorado for medical treatment, said that the shooting turned her and Dewey’s life upside down. However, she said she may never know why her husband was shot.

“Only you, Fairbanks and God knows what went on that day,” she said to Vernier. Thomas Fairbanks is the accused shooter.

Emily Dewey wasn’t the only person to speak during Wednesday’s hearing. The Mahnomen County attorney stated she didn’t believe Vernier was apologetic for his actions the morning Deputy Dewey was shot. And the Mahnomen County sheriff told the court he thought Dewey was going to die from his gunshot wounds.

Vernier, 27, pleaded guilty in July to the charge of failure to render assistance to the wounded deputy. Vernier also was sentenced to 30 months in prison on an unrelated domestic violence charge that had been suspended.

He could be out of prison in less than 18 months because of time served and because only two-thirds of the sentence is served in prison, while the other third is spent on supervised release if he maintains good behavior.

Vernier also will have to testify in the trial of Fairbanks and pay a portion of restitution that will be due as a result of Dewey’s injuries.

His testimony is needed because aggravating factors need to be proven to lengthen Fairbanks’ prison time if he is found guilty.

“It’s going to be essential because there were other shootings that were happening besides Chris,” Mahnomen County Attorney Julie Bruggeman said about Vernier’s testimony. “There were shootings in the house aimed at Vernier and at law enforcement, which will aggravate the sentence a little bit.

“This is someone who is dangerous and that we don’t want out on the streets,” Bruggeman said of Fairbanks.

Dewey was shot early in the morning of Feb. 18 in Mahnomen. He is undergoing extensive rehabilitation therapy at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo.

Before Ninth District Judge Michael Kraker pronounced the sentence, he gave victims of the crime an opportunity to address the court and Vernier.

Emily Dewey went on to tell the court that these past months have been hell and she implored Vernier to do something with his life.

“You’ve spent your life as a criminal; do something with it,” she said.

Chris Dewey’s stepmother, Jennifer Dewey, said her stepson lost the chance to say goodbye to his grandfather, who died recently.

“You helped by not acting,” she said to Vernier.

Mahnomen County Sheriff Doug Krier showed anger in his remarks.

“I thought I was going to go to a funeral,” he said of seeing Dewey for the first time in the hospital. “That pissed me off. There was no reason for that.”

For such a small sheriff’s department, the shooting is a burden to the public because Dewey is needed and his injuries left the department shorthanded, Krier said.

Vernier’s girlfriend, Rachel Fairbanks, who is also the sister of the accused shooter, said her family has been victims as well.

She is the mother of Vernier’s three children, including twins who were born a few months after the shooting.

“You’ve been in our thoughts and prayers,” Rachel Fairbanks said of the Deweys.

But she said that because of the shooting, her family has suffered repercussions.

“I’ve been ostracized as well,” she said.

After the sentencing hearing, Rachel Fairbanks said that Vernier has another chance at turning his life around from a life of crime.

“Danny has been given another opportunity at life,” she said.

Vernier didn’t make a statement.

Bruggeman said that despite Vernier pleading guilty, she feels he hasn’t accepted responsibility.

“Do I think he’s taken responsibility for his actions yet? In my opinion, I don’t think so,” Bruggeman said.

Vernier will be taken to the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud, where it will be determined where he’ll eventually serve the bulk of his prison time.

Fairbanks faces an omnibus hearing in November, with a tentative trial date in late January or February.

The Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune and The Forum are owned by Forum Communications Co.