DETROIT LAKES, Minnesota — It was standing room only in a Becker County courtroom for the sentencing of 56-year-old Morris Dodd.
"The defendant had left Jay Nelson to die alone," said Minnesota Assistant Attorney General John Gross, who prosecuted the case.
Dodd shot and killed retired Lake Park police chief Nelson in a hunting accident more than two years ago. Nelson was sitting in his pickup along a trail near his family's hunting cabin on the White Earth Reservation.
"The defendant walked to the shooting site and then ran back," Gross said at the Wednesday, July 28, sentencing.
Dodd denies he knew he had shot Nelson that day. He admitted he had fired a shot to spook a fawn and said he was scared to turn himself in after seeing news reports, knowing he was not allowed to own a gun because of a felony sex charge.
A jury convicted Dodd of manslaughter for the hunting accident. He had already pleaded guilty to the gun charge. Prosecutors wanted Dodd to spend nearly eight years in prison.
"All the lies afterward were a consciousness of guilt," Gross said.
Dodd's lawyer argued for sentence between five and six years because "this was a hunting accident, and Mr. Dodd has always been remorseful. He has struggled with coming to terms with what happened," Rausch said.
Before the judge decided Dodd's punishment, Nelson's widow said she still has not been able to accept her husband's "senseless" death, especially after a 30-year career in law enforcement.
"My husband worked in law enforcement to be taken out by a threat he was unaware of," Sheila Nelson said.
The family also talked about how they have not been able to return to the hunting camp.
"Hunting has been ruined for most of us," said Nelson's brother, Chad Nelson. "A family tradition has been ruined."
When asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Dodd shook his head and said, "No."
Judge Jay Carlson sentenced him to serve 6 1/2 years in prison.