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Dave Roepke, Published December 22 2009

No charges will be filed in fatal shooting

The man who shot and killed a 17-year-old who broke into his Moorhead apartment while drunk last summer acted in self-defense and won’t face charges, officials said.

Authorities in Moorhead unveiled the details of the six-month investigation on Monday, saying evidence in the June 20 shooting shows

48-year-old Vernon Allen did not commit a crime when he killed Joel LaFromboise with a shotgun blast to the chest.

Proving a second-degree murder or manslaughter charge was not going to be possible given state laws allowing self-defense and defense of one’s home, said Clay County Attorney Brian Melton.

Ballistics evidence from the .12-gauge shotgun Allen used backs up what he told police: that he shot the teen at point-blank range after there was a struggle for the shotgun. An analysis done at the state-run crime lab in Bemidji showed that the single shot was fired at a range of 1 inch to 18 inches.

“I had no intention of shooting him, but when he came after me and tried to take that shotgun away from me, I, I, I only had one choice – shoot him. ’Cause otherwise he would have shot me with it,” Allen told Moorhead Detective Ryan Nelson in an interview just hours after the shooting, according to a transcript released Monday.

Allen told Nelson that LaFromboise grabbed at the barrel of the shotgun, pulling it toward his chest with both hands. Allen then cocked the gun. With LaFromboise’s hands still holding the end of the gun to his chest, Allen squeezed the trigger.

Beyond the firearms test, there was little physical evidence to confirm Allen’s account, Melton said. The barrel’s surface made DNA testing impossible and only partial fingerprints were found on the gun, he said.

Toxicology testing shows LaFromboise died with a blood-alcohol content of 0.216 percent, and Allen’s home in unit No. 3 at 1103 19th St. S. was just one of four homes that LaFromboise entered without permission that night, police say.

Police also believe that LaFromboise, who wore a shirt with the word “Murderapolis” on it the night he died, broke into three homes near his home on June 9 and June 10, apparently while intoxicated.

Melton said authorities have been unable to figure out who supplied the teenager with alcohol.

The teen’s family initially said they didn’t think the 17-year-old was drinking, but Ralph LaFromboise, Joel’s father, said Monday he was not surprised to hear his son was drunk. After giving it some thought, it was the best explanation.

“That’s not like Joel just to walk into somebody’s apartment,” he said.

Ralph LaFromboise said he and Joel’s mother, Cynthia Homesky, are upset about the decision to not charge Allen, though it’s exactly what he expected.

“It’s really saddening knowing that,” he said. “You go into it with hopes.”

Allen declined to discuss the shooting at length but did agree it was a relief to know he won’t be charged.

“The only thing I have to say is I wish it wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “The pain of thinking about it is going to last a lifetime.”

Melton said LaFromboise had a juvenile record relevant to the investigation, but he couldn’t talk about it because juvenile charges are private.

Ralph LaFromboise said his son was on probation for a charge related to breaking a window with a snowball, his only brush with the law.


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