A week after Duluth soldier returns home from Iraq, tragedy strikes
DULUTH - Staff Sgt. Adam Sheda made it home a little over a week ago after an 18-month tour of duty with the Army National Guard in Iraq.
His family could breathe a sigh of relief that a military death notification team never appeared at their door bearing bad news from the Middle East.
That's what makes Duluth's first homicide of 2007 even sadder to Sgt. Bob Shene, who leads the Police Department's Violent Crimes Unit and who served 14 years as an officer in the Coast Guard.
It was a team of local law officers who notified Sheda's family that he lost his life on Duluth's East Hillside about 3:40 a.m. Saturday when he was shot to death during a dispute with a Duluth man.
"Because of my military background -- my father served in the military, my brother served in the military -- I have a special spot in me for veterans," Shene said. "I shake my head. This just seems so senseless, that someone serves that long in that place and this happens."
A 25-year-old man is being held in the St. Louis County Jail on a preliminary charge of second-degree murder. The suspect is expected to be formally charged Thursday. The News Tribune has a policy of generally not naming suspects until they've been formally charged.
Shene said the suspect is not a person who is familiar to police. According to court records, he has been convicted of three minor crimes -- shoplifting $2.67 worth of goods from a Duluth grocery store, disorderly conduct for an incident in a Duluth hardware store and a city ordinance violation for having alcohol in public.
Sally Bernhardt, who lives in the East Hillside, said she has known the suspect for three or four years and that he is a good friend of her son's.
"The guy I know wouldn't do this," Bernhardt said from her doorway Monday afternoon. "I'm very surprised and, yes, it's very hard to believe. He told my whole family he didn't do it."
Bernhardt said the suspect told her that the victim committed suicide.
"He said a strange kid jumped over his fence at his home [927 E. Fifth St.] and [the suspect] told him to get off his property or something like that," Bernhardt said. "He said the other guy [Sheda] seemed really drunk. He said the person that jumped over the fence shot twice at the house and, thinking he killed maybe one of the two that beat him, he then shot himself."
Shene said the gunshot wound that Sheda died from was not self-inflicted.
It was a homicide, he said.
Shene wouldn't comment when asked if Sheda was the owner of the small-caliber handgun.
He also declined to comment on whether Sheda fired any shots or if any shot was fired into the house.
He said witnesses said two to three shots were fired. Police believe two shots were fired.
Shene hinted that alcohol fueled both men's actions in Saturday's incident, but he wouldn't elaborate.
Sheda had a myspace.com account and made this entry:
"Hi, This is Adam. I have a place in Cloquet, Minnesota. I have not been there lately, I'm on my second year in Iraq right now, which is wonderful! All my friends better throw me one hell of a party when I get home. My plans when I get back are to drink until my heart stops. About me? I enjoy travel, history, skiing, driving my car, a fun night on the town with a gal, the satisfaction of a hard days work and earning your keep. I can be very old fashion, I like things Old School. I'm not the best with electronics and computers and stuff."
Shene said police had a difficult time sorting out the facts and learning the truth from the five individuals who were at the scene. Most of them were devastated by what happened, he said.
"The tragedy with this thing is that there's two lives and two families that are just ruined," Shene said. "Over nonsense."
MARK STODGHILL covers public safety and courts. He can be reached weekdays at
(218) 723-5333 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.