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Granite Falls homicide suspect to pursue mental health defense

Attorneys for Andrew Dikken are seeking to raise a mental health defense in his upcoming trial on first-degree murder charges.

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 September slaying of Kara Monson, 26, of Granite Falls, and Christopher Panitzke, 28, of Redwood Falls.

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 Friday morning in 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, 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 courtroom after the proceedings.

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

Dikken is accused of fatally shooting Monson, with whom he had a previous relationship, and Panitzke as they slept in Monson’s home on Sept. 2. A grand jury indicted Dikken on six counts of first-degree murder in 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.

Dikken could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of first-degree murder.

The complaint alleges that he broke into Monson’s home during the late night hours, flipped on the light switch and fired multiple rounds at the two victims. The prosecution has also alleged that Dikken cut natural gas lines in the home, located on a residential street along the Minnesota River in Granite Falls. Monson died of her injuries at the scene, but Panitzke was able to call 911 and allegedly identify the shooter to police officers as he was being treated for his wounds. He died six days later at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

At Friday’s hearing, the judge also approved a request by the defense attorneys for a 30-day time period to decide whether or not to file a motion challenging the grand jury’s indictments. Ferrazzano told the judge he would either file a motion or notify the court of his intention not to challenge the indictments within the time period. The prosecution would have 30 days to respond to any motions seeking to dismiss the grand jury indictments, the judge told the attorneys.

The defense also told the court at the hearing that it would not challenge the admissibility of evidence collected in the case. It includes evidence collected at a search northeast of Sacred Heart on property at the residence of a Dikken relative. It is among the possible locations where officers suspected he could have been staying during a 15-day search for him following the double homicide. Dikken turned himself into the Renville County Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 17 after showing up at his parents’ home in the city of Renville.

Evidence had also been collected from a High Sierra Elite backpack and a red Samsonite suitcase, according to information disclosed during the hearing. It was not stated where the backpack or suitcase had been recovered.

Evidence was also collected from a 1996 GMC Sierra pickup truck that authorities believe Dikken used to drive to Granite Falls on the night of the killings. The vehicle was found two days later parked at a gravel pit along the Minnesota River near Belview, an area where extensive ground searches were subsequently conducted.

Evidence was also seized from the scene of the shooting in Granite Falls, and the clothing Dikken was wearing at the time he turned himself into authorities was kept.

Evidence was also taken from the defendant’s mobile phone and his bank account in Renville.

Attorneys indicated at the hearing that a trial would likely be held in September, and that they are asking the court to reserve a three-week time period for it.

Tom Cherveny

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

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