16-year-old Minnesotan claims man he's charged with murdering molested him for years

MOORHEAD - Nearly doubled over in his seat in a Clay County courtroom, his skinny frame shaking with tears, 16-year-old Zachary Daniel St. Claire was barely audible as he replied to a judge's questions Tuesday.

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Zachary St. Claire is charged with beating to death a 55-year-old man he claims was molesting him. COURTESY PHOTO

MOORHEAD - Nearly doubled over in his seat in a Clay County courtroom, his skinny frame shaking with tears, 16-year-old Zachary Daniel St. Claire was barely audible as he replied to a judge’s questions Tuesday.

“The defendant is distraught and is looking down,” said Clay County District Court Judge Galen Vaa, asking the boy once again whether he understood he was being charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the death of 55-year-old Bradley Carrington – a man the 16-year-old claims had been molesting him for years.

On the second try, St. Claire replied softly, “Yes.”

Moorhead police Lt. Tory Jacobson said Tuesday he could not comment on St. Claire’s allegations that Carrington was molesting him, or whether Carrington had ever been investigated for related crimes, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Carrington's sister, Melody Acosta of Belcourt, N.D., offered a brief response to St. Claire's accusation that her brother sexually abused him.  


"No matter what he did, he did not deserve to die like this. There's ways to go through the law to take care of things like this," she said before quickly ending the conversation.

Prosecutors allege after killing Carrington on Saturday night, St. Claire ran from the scene of the bloodied northside trailer straight to his mother’s house at 1703 9th Ave. S. in Moorhead.

That’s where a detective tracked him down within hours of a neighbor’s discovery late Sunday morning of Carrington’s beaten body.

On Sunday evening, Jolene Peltier brought her son back to north Moorhead, to the Moorhead Police Department headquarters to speak voluntarily with police, court documents filed in the case against him state.

Neighbors had described Carrington as a sort of caretaker or foster parent to St. Claire. But in his interview, the boy told police Carrington had been sexually abusing him for the last three to four years.

St. Claire allegedly told police that he’d been thinking of killing Carrington, and on Saturday night, while drinking with him, he saw an opportunity, the complaint filed against him states.

The 16-year-old allegedly confessed to lashing out with fists and feet at Carrington, punching and kicking him until he was dead.

He then fled to his mother’s house, claiming at first to have ditched his shoes in the river but then saying they were with his clothes, washed of blood, at his mother’s home, police state in court records.


Police arrested the boy and, court records state, they found the clothes he was wearing at the time of the killing.

The criminal complaint does not mention Anthony Rodriguez, the 20-year-old man who’s wanted as a second suspect in Carrington’s death.

Clay County Attorney Brian Melton declined to comment on potential charges against Rodriguez, and Jacobson on Tuesday would only say that Rodriguez remained at large and could still be in the area.

Rodriguez’s car was found late Monday night in a south Fargo neighborhood, in part with help from the public who called in tips about “being familiar [with the car], giving past locations,” Jacobson said. “That’s something we’re really grateful for.”

St. Claire’s family members, including his mother and father, sat quietly several rows behind the teenager at his first court appearance Tuesday. His mother broke down in tears just outside the courtroom. They declined to speak on the record with The Forum.

Prosecutors wanted bail set at $1 million for St. Claire, given the violence of the crime and the threat to public safety, or at $500,000 if he obeys certain conditions such as not leaving the state and not consuming drugs and alcohol.

But after defense attorneys pointed out the boy lives in the area with family, Vaa set bail at $750,000, or $400,000 with conditions.

Besides the first-degree murder charge, St. Claire is charged with second-degree, unpremeditated murder.


The case is a rarity, Melton said, not just because of the youth of the accused, but because first-degree murder charges usually require a grand jury indictment.

Melton said that first-degree murder is unique in Minnesota’s juvenile court system in that it is the only charge that automatically catapults anyone 16 or older into adult court. First-degree murder charges in Minnesota usually require a grand jury to indict a defendant before they’re charged.

Melton said that in cases of children 16 or older, the charge can be leveled first. Prosecutors then have 14 days in which to convene a grand jury to decide whether to indict the teen. If they decide not to, the case goes back to juvenile court, he said.

St. Claire is set for his next hearing on Oct. 30.


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