MANKATO – Chris Kruse said he was woken up one night in August 2015 by two shots from a shotgun and found his 40-year-old wife lying next to him in bed with a fatal bullet in her head. chest.
Kruse called 911 from the couple’s home in the small town of Brewster, just northeast of Worthington, at 2:30 a.m. and told the dispatcher who shot Janette Pigman-Kruse had run away.
Law enforcement eventually focused on the husband, suggesting he wanted to use a life insurance policy on her to help him buy a resort. But it wasn’t until March 2019 that Kruse was indicted by a grand jury and charged with first and second degree murder.
During his two-week trial that ended in February this year, Mankato’s attorneys Thomas Hagen and Steven Groschen of the Kohlmeyer Hagen law firm denied the state’s case and a jury acquitted Kruse of both counts.
The lawsuit has sparked interest from “Dateline NBC,” which airs a two-hour episode, “Far From Spider Lake,” presenting the case at 8pm Friday.
“They called early in the case and said they were going to send a reporter, but I didn’t think anything would come out of it,” Hagen said this week. “Then, at the end of the trial, a producer came and asked me to interview me. It was a first for me. “
The law firm plans to garner national attention by hosting a FaceTime event during and after the show airs. Hagen said Kruse is planning to attend the FaceTime rally and will answer people’s questions. Viewers can connect to the FaceTime event by visiting the “Kohlmeyer Hagen Law Office Chtd”. The Facebook page.
The jury acquitted Kruse, 46, after 12 hours of deliberation.
Prosecutor Braden Hoefert told the jury that Kruse was the only person with a motive to kill his wife. The Worthington Daily Globe reported that the couple had been trying to buy the Spider Lake Resort, northeast of the Twin Cities, where they had vacationed for years. But they were unable to afford it because of the loan a bank would give them. Hoefert said Kruse’s wife’s $ 150,000 life insurance policy was the motive for the murder.
The state also noted that some of Kruse’s interview responses were inconsistent and said a K9 unit was unable to detect a trace of odor from an intruder. One of the most damning pieces of evidence was Kruse’s 12-gauge Remington 870 rifle that law enforcement found in his carpentry shop, located about half a mile from the house.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension performed a ballistic analysis and initially determined that both shots were fired from Kruse’s weapon.
And, prosecutors said, Kruse did not appear to be trying to revive his wife or request an ambulance when calling 911.
The defense argued that Kruse was in shock and lacked the skills to save lives, so he couldn’t be expected to try to revive his wife. And they said the psychological trauma would make it difficult for Kruse to remember the details in exactly the same way each time he told the story. One explanation for the K9 not detecting a track would be if the assailant left the scene in a vehicle.
Hagen said they were successful in dismantling the prosecution case because the state had the wrong timeline, did not do a good investigative job and because the gun’s ballistics were not definitive.
The prosecution argued that Kruse, a carpenter by trade, shot his wife, then went to his store and disposed of the gun before returning home to call 911.
“The state interviewed several people but did not follow through, and the timeline they tried to set did not match,” Hagen said.
The fact that the Kruses’ teenage daughter Bailey lived in the basement and was at home during the murder was a key part of setting the timeline.
The girl testified that the shots rang out around 2:30 a.m., helping the defense to plead, Kruse called 911 right after the shooting.
And, Hagen said, they discovered a video that supported the case of an intruder who murdered the woman.
“There’s a bean processing plant (soybeans) in Brewster with a video camera pointing straight at the (Kruse’s) house. He was pointing to a car driving away from near the house the moment Bailey heard the gunshot. This vehicle, the defense argued, was the intruder leaving the scene of the murder.
Finally, the defense team looked at the ballistic test performed by the BCA and subsequent tests performed on the shotgun. “The state could not prove by tests that the shells came from the Kruse cannon,” Hagen said.
In addition to attacking the state’s case, Hagen and Groschen gave the jury another potential suspect in the murder: the girl’s boyfriend.
Hagen said the judge allowed them to nominate another suspect because the defense had enough information to suggest the boyfriend may well be the murderer, including the fact that he had the same type of gun as Kruse.
Hagen said that since his client was acquitted, no further investigation has been carried out into the case by law enforcement. “The County of Nobles has just shut down. It is an injustice to the Kruses.
Hagen has since moved to Worthington.
Hagen said the five-year case and trial was an emotional experience for everyone.
“Anytime you represent someone you believe to be truly innocent, you have a lot of stress.”