WILLMAR -- Delbert Huber pleaded guilty Friday morning to second-degree intentional murder in the Oct. 8, 2011, death of Timothy Larson at Larson's family farm in rural Belgrade.
Huber, 82, of rural Paynesville, admitted in Kandiyohi County District Court in Willmar that he pointed a loaded rifle at Larson, 43, and pulled the trigger after a confrontation at the farm site. Hours later, Huber called 9-1-1 to report the shooting.
Huber's son, Timothy Huber, 45, is awaiting trial on a first-degree murder indictment regarding the same incident. The first-degree indictment against Delbert Huber was dismissed as a condition of his pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Judge Michael Thompson scheduled Huber's sentencing for 9 a.m. Sept. 4. According to the plea agreement outlined Friday morning, Huber is to be sentenced according to state guidelines, which would send him to prison for 25 years. He would be eligible for supervised release after 17 years.
Several members of the Larson family were in court Friday morning when Huber pleaded guilty. Two members of Huber's family were there, too.
They had come to the courthouse expecting to attend a proceeding related to whether Huber had formally waived his right to be represented by a lawyer in his trial.
After his arrest on Oct. 8, Huber's request for a public defender was denied, but he did not hire his own attorney.
Willmar attorney Ramona Lackore had been appointed to advise Huber on procedural matters related to his trial, and to represent him at the hearing. The court also had ordered her to consult with Huber prior to Friday's appearance.
Shortly after the scheduled hearing started Friday morning, Huber said he would like more time to discuss the issue with Lackore. Huber arrived in court in a wheelchair, dressed in tan jail clothing. He had a white beard and collar-length white hair.
The hearing was recessed for an hour and 15 minutes. During that time, a series of short meetings took place between the parties in the case.
When the hearing reconvened, Kandiyohi County Attorney Jenna Fischer said that the plea agreement had been reached.
Fischer said her office had notified relatives of the victim. While some of them would prefer to see a longer sentence, she said, "All who we have talked to agree this is the appropriate way to proceed."
Under questioning from Fischer and Thompson, Huber said he understood that he was forfeiting his right to a trial and to cross-examine witnesses against him.
"You understand I will not accept a guilty plea from anyone who claims to be innocent," Thompson asked. "Yeah," was Huber's reply. He answered many questions with "Yeah," or "I guess so."
Huber admitted that he had a confrontation with Larson the day of the shooting and that he grabbed the gun in his vehicle and loaded it after the confrontation.
Asked by Fischer if he pointed the gun at Larson, Huber said, "I pointed it that way. ... I thought the rifle was on safe, but it went off."
As Fischer's questioning continued, Huber agreed that it was reasonable to believe that pointing a loaded gun at a person and pulling the trigger could cause them to die. He admitted pulling the trigger.
At the end of the hearing, Huber asked if he could have a visit with his son. Both have been held in the Kandiyohi County Jail but in different sections. Fischer objected as they are co-defendants in the murder case, but Lackore suggested the visit could be supervised to prevent them from discussing the case.
Thompson ordered that the visit could take place if the jail staff could arrange and supervise it. He told Huber the visit would end if they tried to discuss anything about the charges against them.
Huber said he wanted to talk to his son about health issues, and Thompson said health and family issues would be fine.
After the hearing, Fischer said she had offered the plea agreement because it opens up opportunities to use evidence in the Timothy Huber trial.
With a first-degree murder charge, the presumed sentence is life in prison. "We know with Mr. Huber that it's a life sentence regardless," she said.
The plea agreement also spares Larson's widow from going through the "real grueling process" of two trials, she said.