By Meredith Holt and Maureen McMullen, Published November 23 2013
VIDEO: Fargo police arrest 35-year-old suspected in double homicide
Officers arrested David George Stevens on suspicion of murdering a 23-year-old Fargo woman and a 30-year-old Moorhead man, Police Chief Keith Ternes said in a news conference Saturday morning.
Ternes disclosed few details about the slaying, but he said the victims’ wounds appear to be from a stabbing and that officers had enough probable cause to arrest Stevens, who is being held in the Cass County Jail pending charges.
Though he didn’t specify the relationship between the victims or the man suspected of killing them, Ternes said investigators believe they weren’t strangers.
“These are people who knew one another,” he said.
Police didn’t release the names of the victims Saturday, and Lt. Joel Vettel said they might not be released until Monday morning.
Detectives were still working on identifying a motive for the killings, Ternes said.
“I’m quite certain that’s something we’ll work towards uncovering” on Saturday, the chief said.
Ternes said he expected officers would continue to be on the scene for much of the day Saturday. A block of Seventh Avenue North between 11th and 12th streets was closed to traffic Saturday morning before opening at about noon.
Midmorning, police were still barring anyone from entering the block and the alley behind it. Even a mail carrier looking to make his Saturday morning deliveries in the area was stopped by an officer and turned away.
Later in the day, one of the building’s residents and a next-door neighbor said they’ve seen frequent short stops by visitors to the building – suggesting to them that there was drug-dealing happening there.
Building resident Jasmine Edin, 25, said she noticed several people, some in groups, coming and going all day Tuesday.
“I just had a terrible feeling after that,” she said.
Next door, 29-year-old Tony Stark said he suspected that someone was selling drugs in the building, but other than that, he hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary.
“Unfortunately, it happens,” he said of the murders. “It sucks that it’s here.”
Ternes said police received multiple 911 calls shortly after 2 a.m. reporting a possible stabbing at 1105 7th Ave. N., a six-unit apartment building.
When officers arrived, they found two people dead outside the building, Ternes said. Stevens was still inside the building, he said.
Ternes said a confrontation of some sort began inside the residence. He declined to say if investigators have recovered a suspected weapon used in the killings, but he reiterated multiple times that officers believed there was probable cause to arrest Steven on suspicion of murder.
When neighbor Stark left for work around 5:15 a.m., he saw two bodies lying on the ground – one across the street and one in the apartment building’s parking lot behind a van.
“I don’t know which one was which; they were wearing winter coats and they were face-down,” he said.
He also noticed that a dark-colored Plymouth Neon with South Dakota plates was left running with its lights on until it ran out of gas.
On Saturday afternoon, bloodstains remained on the walls and floor of the apartment building, where Ternes said the 23-year-old woman who was killed appears to have been a tenant.
Initial investigation indicates Stevens was not a tenant, and police are trying to piece together why he was there, the chief said. A background check database used by collection agencies lists 1105 7th Ave. N. as a former address where Stevens lived.
Edin, who’d moved into the building a couple months ago, had seen the female victim in passing but hadn’t said more than “hi” to her.
Stark said he doesn’t know any of the building’s residents but had seen the suspect in the area.
“I was pretty sure the guy that I see all over the news now was the guy that I saw with two kids during the summer,” he said.
Dorothy LeFrooth, reached Saturday night at her home in Afton, Minn., said Stevens was married to her stepdaughter but that they’d been separated for over a year.
The 63-year-old woman said Stevens and her stepdaughter have two kids together and that Stevens had been struggling with drugs for “quite a while.”
“He dealt with drugs a lot, (and he was) in and out of rehab,” he said.
Ternes said there were two active warrants out for Stevens’ arrest, both for misdemeanors.
An arrest warrant was issued for Stevens in Fargo Municipal Court on Tuesday, according to online court records. The warrant was linked to a 2011 incident in which he pleaded guilty to drunken driving and driving with a revoked or suspended license. He failed to pay the fines on the charges, records show.
He was also wanted on an arrest warrant issued in Ramsey County in Minnesota linked to an unpaid fine on a petty theft case, according to court records.
Court records show Stevens’ only serious prior criminal history in North Dakota is a felony terrorizing charge to which he pleaded guilty in March 2011. Details of that case weren’t available because the courthouse is closed on weekends. But he received a two-year sentence, all of which was suspended except for 72 days already served in jail. He also was ordered to serve 1½ years on supervised probation.
Stevens’ only felony conviction in Minnesota was in 2007 for fifth-degree felony drug possession in Washington County.
These are the second and third homicides in Fargo in 2013.
The only other homicide this year was in February, when Ronald Rogers fatally shot his wife, Elizabeth Rogers. Earlier this month, Rogers was sentenced to 30 years in state prison after pleading guilty to murder.