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Dikken held on $3 million bail

Patrice Monson, mother of homicide victim Kara Monson, talked to reporters after Thursday’s court proceedings in Granite Falls. “I’m here for Chris (Panitzke) and Kara. It was very difficult but I am proud to say I had the strength to be there.’’ Eric Monson, first cousin to Kara, is at her side. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

GRANITE FALLS — District Judge Thomas Van Hon set bail at $3 million and would allow no conditions for Andrew Dikken’s release at a lesser amount during the defendant’s first court appearance on Thursday morning in Granite Falls.

Judge Van Hon cited concerns for public safety and the risk of flight in setting the bail, believed to be the highest ever in a Yellow Medicine County case.

Dikken, 28, of Granite Falls and formerly of Renville, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the Sept. 2 shootings of Kara Monson, 26, of Granite Falls, and Chris Panitzke, 28, of Redwood Falls.

Monson died at the scene of the shooting in her home, and Panitzke died Sept. 8 at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

A courtroom filled with family and friends of the two victims, as well as members of Dikken’s family, watched as Granite Falls police officers escorted the shackled defendant into the courtroom.

Dikken had been the focus of a 15-day manhunt after the shooting. He was taken into custody Tuesday after he showed up at his parents’ home in Renville and they turned him into the Renville County Sheriff’s Office.

“The state doesn’t believe any conditions would alleviate the danger to public safety,’’ Yellow Medicine County Attorney Keith Helgeson said in asking for unconditional bail at $3 million.

The prosecutor cited what he termed “cold and calculated actions’’ by Dikken, who is accused of shooting Monson and her boyfriend Panitzke as they slept. Dikken and Monson had a previous relationship.

Helgeson said there were “grave concerns’’ that Dikken poses a threat to the surviving family of the victims, as well as the public. The fact that he eluded law officers for 15 days made him an obvious flight risk, he told the judge.

Attorney Benjamin Pieh, with the public defender’s office, asked for a lower bail with conditions, telling the judge that Dikken did not pose a threat to the public or of flight. While acknowledging that Dikken had “disappeared’’ for 15 days, he stated that the defendant chose to stay in the area. “He could have gone further. He remained in the area.”

He also told the court that the defendant did not approach or threaten anyone else during the 15 days.

Dikken was kept in both handcuffs and ankle shackles and wore an orange jail suit. He appeared thinner than his image in the wanted photos that had been widely disseminated while he was being sought. He was not as disheveled looking as the jail photo taken Tuesday when he was first booked into custody.

He answered questions directly to the judge, but otherwise kept his head bowed as he sat slumped forward at the table through the short proceeding.

Afterward, Patrice Monson, mother of Kara Monson, told reporters of the tremendous loss that both of the victims’ families have suffered.

“We are struggling,’’ said Monson. “It will take forever to get past this but we are very strong and we are wanting the best.’’

Monson said it was difficult to watch the court proceedings, but she felt it was important to be there on behalf of her daughter and Panitzke.

She also said the family never lost hope that Dikken would be apprehended. “I knew they’d find him,’’ said Monson. “I knew that we’d see him.’’

The County Attorney’s Office said it would not comment on whether it is considering convening a grand jury. Only a grand jury can bring an indictment for first-degree, premeditated murder.

The charge of second-degree murder carries a possible maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Dikken is expected to remain in the Yellow Medicine County Jail. His next court appearance is Oct. 3 in Granite Falls.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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