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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published November 18 2013

'He was talking, then he gasped and he was gone'; 3 men in custody after fatal stabbing near Grand Forks

RURAL GRAND FORKS COUNTY — Blood still stained the wooden porch Monday afternoon where Joel Cisneros held his older brother, Ruben Cisneros Jr., as he died after being stabbed several times during a burglary early Sunday.

“He told me he got stabbed, take me to the hospital,” Joel said. “I tried to hold him up, get him in the pickup, but I couldn’t do it.”

Dialing 911, he asked the ambulance to hurry to their home northwest of the airport.

“He was talking, then he gasped and he was gone,” Joel said.

He told the 911 dispatcher, “my brother stopped breathing, what do I do? She gave me a CPR procedure, to thump on his chest... and I did. But nothing.”

Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost said three men were arrested in connection with the burglary but released little other information, except to say that a man, 33, was found dead at the scene from stab wounds.

He referred all questions Monday to the Grand Forks County State’s Attorney’s office. Carmell Mattison, the prosecutor said to be preparing possible charges in the case, did not return repeated requests for information Monday.

The men reportedly taken into custody did not appear in court Monday in Grand Forks, according to court officials.

The attack

It started not long before 1 a.m. Sunday, Joel said. The family home was silent, everyone in bed, he said of the rural house where his father, his brother and he lived.

Three men kicked in the front door, he said. “I just heard a big bang. One guy was wearing a baseball cap with ‘Police’ on it. They said, ‘We are here for (Ruben’s former girlfriend’s) stuff.’”

“My brother came to wake me up,” Joel said.

The only light on was in the kitchen, so he wasn’t able to see the intruders’ faces, Joel said.

They took clothing and other items from the house.

In the chaos, Joel, 27, said he walked outside without shoes and found his brother. As Ruben came into the light of the kitchen window, Joel said he could see blood on his brother’s chest.

He said his brother had stab wounds in his chest, abdomen, chin and both arms.

By this time, the three men and two others who waited in their pickup had lined up two Honda vehicles on the road “heading south.”

The vehicles were not in his brother’s name, but he owned them, Joel said. The group left in the vehicles before the ambulance and law enforcement arrived, he said.

Joel Cisneros said he is certain he heard the voice of his brother’s former girlfriend somewhere behind the three men who kicked in the door.


The woman Joel named as his brother’s ex-girlfriend was charged last month for using false identities to procure medication at Altru Hospital, three times using different names during a 24-hour period, and then lying to police who confronted her about her identity.

The charge is a felony and she is due for a preliminary hearing later this week.

On her application for a public defender, the woman listed Ruben Cisneros Jr. as her boyfriend and his parents as other people she lived with; she listed their rural home as her residence last month.

She also listed a 1998 Honda Civic which she valued at $1,500 under assets in her application for a public defender.

Joel Cisneros said investigators told him they knew where the woman was Monday but that she had not been taken into custody.

Because investigators or prosecutors have not named any suspects in the case, the Herald is not publishing the woman’s name.

New to N.D.

Cisneros said his family had lived in New York state until his brother and parents moved to North Dakota in the past year. He joined them, too, to find work.

In the past year they rented the large rural home near the airport.

“My dad planted a garden out back,” Joel Cisneros said.

His mother, Louisa Cisneros, died two weeks ago from cancer. She had worked at the wind-turbine blade manufacturing plant in Grand Forks, where Joel also works.

Ruben Jr. worked for a drain tile manufacturing plant in Buxton, 20 miles south of Grand Forks.

“They all loved him there,” Joel said of the reaction he got after telling his brother’s employers and work mates Monday about his slaying. “He was a good guy.”

He said funeral arrangements for his brother will be made later this week.

“What happened to my brother was not right,” Joel said, wiping tears from his face. “I tried, I tried.”