Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, Published October 09 2012
$1 million bail set for Badger couple charged with murder
Prosecutor Eric Schieferdecker said he asked Judge Donna Dixon for the high bail, in part, because of the danger Lemen posed to public safety.
Lemen had admitted to investigators that he strangled John Currier, 31, to death, according to Schieferdecker, an assistant state attorney general assisting Roseau County Attorney Karen Foss in the case.
Shinholser, Lemen’s live-in girlfriend, has several criminal convictions in the region, Schieferdecker said, and had failed to appear for a mental competency hearing last month.
The medical examiner’s office in St. Paul reported that Currier died of asphyxiation after being strangled. There were fractures to cartilage and bone in his throat area and “chopping wounds and blunt force injuries to the head, as well as numerous contusions to the body.”
Lemen and Shinholser are charged with second-degree murder in intentionally killing Currier, which has a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Shinholser’s murder charge also includes the allegation that she aided and/or conspired with someone in killing Currier.
They are scheduled to appear in court Oct. 29, when they can enter a plea.
This the first murder case in Roseau County since 2002, when Justin Dean Jones, 14 at the time, killed a 15-month-old girl, Mia Powassin, according to Foss.
On Friday, Currier’s girlfriend told the Roseau County Sheriff’s Office that she had not seen him since Thursday evening.
While looking out his bedroom window Saturday, she reported that she could see what looked to be his body in a small enclosed space in the Badger apartment building where he lived alone.
Badger, a town of 370, is about 13 miles southwest of Roseau.
Investigators found Currier’s body in a sort of attic space, according to Deputy Jeff Nelson. It was lying in a “near-fetal position with the feet at a higher elevation,” Nelson wrote in his report. “The ankles appeared to have been bound by belt or similar type object and that there appeared to be some possible bruises and minor abrasions present (on) the victim’s legs.”
When investigators came to Lemen’s apartment, they said, he told them Shinholser was not at home, but they soon found her barricaded in their apartment with a dresser against the door.
Investigators said Lemen admitted to them that he and Shinholser did kill Currier, but said Currier had fought with them first.
Currier attacked Shinholser earlier in the week in the hallway, throwing her to the ground, leading the couple to plan to assault him, according to what Lemen told them. On Thursday night or early Friday morning, he said, Currier came home drunk and tussled with him, throwing a barbecue grill that hit him in the face.
On Tuesday in court, Lemen still showed the bruises on his face that investigators said showed up clearly when they arrested him Saturday.
Lemen told investigators he put a choke hold on Currier until his arms got tired. Shinholser helped him, he said, and hit Currier with a hatchet or other similar weapon. The couple used belts to restrain Currier’s arms and legs during their attack, Lemen said.
Together, they carried Currier’s body out of his bedroom window to where it was found Saturday, Lemen told investigators. He said he burned the bloody clothes he and Shinholser wore during the attack in a fire pit outside the building.
Currier, who is from International Falls, Minn., worked at Polaris Industries in Roseau, according to his landlord.
Lemen previously worked at Polaris also, and has lived in the Badger area for about four years, according to Sheriff Steve Gust and Schieferdecker. Lemen’s family mostly lived in California.
He had a minor arrest in Arizona several years ago and a misdemeanor conviction in 2010 in Roseau County for giving alcohol to a minor.
Shinholser, who was not working recently, grew up in the Gatzke, Minn., area, about 30 miles south of Roseau, said Gust. She has been married and has four young children who live in Florida, he said.
Lemen told investigators Saturday that Shinholser was pregnant.
She was arrested in August for disorderly conduct, and later accused of assaulting an officer. A caller had reported a woman screaming on Main Street in Badger, and a deputy found Shinholser yelling incoherently and running in circles. When the deputy tried to arrest her, she jumped on top of his squad vehicle.
On the way in to the jail, she “drooled on herself and urinated on herself,” and appeared to be under the influence of a drug, the deputy reported. Taken to the emergency room in Roseau, she fought with medical personnel and deputies, spitting in the face of one deputy, according to the court complaint.
She was ordered to get a mental evaluation, but skipped it in September. On Tuesday, Judge Dixon ordered Shinholser to get evaluated.
Stephen J. Lee writes for the Grand Forks Herald