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Dave Roepke, Published November 10 2009

Autopsy still pending in Moorhead shooting

When 17-year-old Joel LaFromboise was shot dead in a stranger’s apartment in June, Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger said an autopsy would take two to four weeks.

Nearly five months later, Ebinger’s department still hasn’t received full results from the state crime laboratory in Bemidji, a delay that’s frustrated him.

“This is driving us nuts, but we’re outstate,” Ebinger said. “It’s a matter of us getting in line. There’s not a whole lot of leverage we’ve got there.”

The most recent estimate on when the results will be available is mid-December, Ebinger said.

Police already have most pieces of the report, including toxicology results, but will not make the autopsy public until it’s done in its entirety, Ebinger said.

Toxicology results might be important in the case because witnesses – including the shooter, Vernon Allen – reported that LaFromboise seemed intoxicated when he wandered into Allen’s apartment on June 20. The family of LaFromboise has said they don’t believe he was on drugs or drinking.

Investigators are waiting for firearms testing, Ebinger said. That’s typically the final type of testing done on evidence, following fingerprints first and then DNA, he said.

“We’re in the last stage of it,” he said.

Once the autopsy is done, the results will be turned over to Clay County Attorney Brian Melton to see if charges are warranted.

Ebinger said police have been sending Melton lab results as they come in so he doesn’t have to read the entire report at once. Melton did not return a phone message Monday.

The LaFromboise family will see the autopsy after Melton’s office but before it is released to the public, Ebinger said. The father of LaFromboise has said he’s angry Allen wasn’t charged in his son’s death.

Police officials have said the autopsy is unlikely to change the direction of the case, but Ebinger said he’s looking forward to closing the book on the shooting.

“It’s gone on long enough,” said the chief, who attributed the wait in part to state budget cuts.

Information about what’s causing the delay at the lab wasn’t immediately available, said a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535