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Keith Norman, Forum Communications Co., Published February 16 2012

Jamestown jury finds Cave guilty of manslaughter, criminal conspiracy

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Jurors found Janelle Cave, 22, Jamestown, guilty of manslaughter and criminal conspiracy Thursday. Manslaughter was a lesser charge that was considered when she was found not guilty of murder.

Cave and Leron Lee Howard, 34, Jamestown, had been charged with murder and criminal conspiracy in the death of Abdi Ali Ahmed, 18, Jamestown, on April 30, 2011. Howard is scheduled for trial beginning Aug. 7.

Cave sobbed as the verdict was read.

Manslaughter is defined as recklessly causing the death of an individual. It is a Class B felony and punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Criminal conspiracy is a Class AA felony punishable by up to life in prison without parole. According to the criminal information document filed in the case the minimum sentence includes “no parole eligibility for 30 years.”

Sentencing is scheduled to occur in about six to eight weeks and will follow a pre-sentence investigation.

The verdict was read in front of a packed courtroom that included family members of the defendant and the victim. Both groups remained silent while the verdict was read. None was available for comment after the verdict.

Ahmed moved to Jamestown in March 2011. He was seen in a downtown Jamestown bar with Howard the night of the murder. His body was found in a ditch near Spiritwood on April 30, 2011. He died of blunt head trauma and also suffered stab wounds before he died.

Cave told jurors during her testimony that she never participated in harming Ahmed. She said Howard struck Ahmed and she helped Howard transport Ahmed to the rural ditch where his body was found. She also threw a knife used to stab Ahmed in the James River.

Cave said she helped Howard and kept quiet for months after the murder because she was afraid he would harm her and her family.

Keith Norman writes for the Jamestown Sun.