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Dikken's attorneys want to raise mental health defense

GRANITE FALLS – Attorneys for Andrew Dikken are seeking to raise a mental health defense in his upcoming trial on first degree murder charges in the slaying of Kara Monson, 26, of Granite Falls, and Christopher Panitzke, 28, of Redwood Falls last September.

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                Public defense attorneys Stephen Ferrazzano and Benjamin Pieh told District Judge Thomas Van Hon on Friday that they are seeking to raise a mental health defense, and asked that the judge order a mental health evaluation. The judge approved the request.

                Prosecutors Robert Plesha, with the state attorney general’s office, and Keith Helgeson, Yellow Medicine County attorney, did not object to what is known as a Rule 20 mental health evaluation.

                Dikken, 28, of Renville, sat quietly through the brief hearing held Friday morning in the Yellow Medicine County district court in Granite Falls.  He made no gestures to the more than two dozen family members of the victims who attended the hearing, many of them wearing purple T-shirts in memory of Kara Monson. At a previous hearing, Dikken, had gestured to family members when being escorted out of the small courtroom by sheriff’s officers after the proceedings.

                As at previous hearings, Dikken was kept in handcuffs and ankle shackles during the hearing, and uniformed police and sheriff’s officers held positions in the courtroom.

                Dikken is accused of fatally shooting Monson, with whom he had previous relationship and Panitzke as they slept in Monson’s home on Sept. 2. A grand jury indicted him on six counts of first degree murder last November. Prosecutors had rejected his offer to plead guilty to the original, second degree murder charges.

                He is currently held in the Yellow Medicine County Jail on charges including two counts of first-degree murder for premeditation, two counts for murder while committing the act of burglary and two counts of murder while committing or attempting to commit arson. He could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted for first degree murder.

Tom Cherveny

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

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