WILLMAR — The Kandiyohi County Attorney's Office has appealed a district court's decision that Algene Leeland Vossen, a man accused of a 1974 Willmar homicide, is incompetent to stand trial.

The Attorney's Office submitted an appeal Friday asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to consider whether District Court Judge Stephen Wentzell erred when he found Vossen incompetent to stand trial.

Kandiyohi County Attorney Shane Baker also requested that the competency order issued earlier this month by Wentzell be stayed pending the outcome of the appeal.

"This trial court's error, unless reversed, will have a critical impact on the outcome of the case and prevents the State from obtaining the appropriate conviction and sentence for this type of case."

Algene Leeland Vossen
Photo via Minnehaha County (S.D.) Jail
Algene Leeland Vossen Photo via Minnehaha County (S.D.) Jail
Vossen, 80, is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Mabel "Mae" Agnes Boyer Herman. He was charged last year after a Willmar Police Department cold case team was able to connect Vossen to the homicide after matching his DNA with a sweater Herman was wearing the night she was killed.

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A Willmar native, Vossen was living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, when he was arrested in July 2020. He was booked into the Kandiyohi County Jail in September following extradition proceedings and made his first appearance in Kandiyohi County Court on Sept. 4, 2020. He was held on $1 million bail.

Vossen was released from jail in October of 2020. He was hospitalized in St. Cloud from Oct. 17 to Oct. 27, 2020, for medical treatment. He was then released into the care of his niece in Iowa, where he currently remains.

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Wentzell, in a 23-page order filed Nov. 5, found Vossen not competent to stand trial and ordered Kandiyohi County to conduct a screening of Vossen and make a recommendation on whether Vossen should be civilly committed under the Minnesota Commitment and Treatment Act.

Wentzell cited testimony from all three evaluators — Dr. Sara Vaccarella, an evaluator for the defense; Dr. Tricia Aiken, a court-appointed evaluator; and the Kandiyohi County Attorney's office evaluator, Dr. Harlan James Gilbertson. They all suggested Vossen suffered from "significant memory impairment, specifically regarding newly learned information."

Wentzell had taken under advisement conflicting testimony given by three evaluators during a Sept. 10 competency hearing. Wenztell had also asked for the prosecution and the defense to submit written briefs.

In his order, Judge Wentzell wrote that Vossen displays significant short-term memory impairments along with additional impairments that would hinder his ability to consult with his defense attorney or recall facts related to the case.

"A defendant's ability to recall learned information is essential both for their participation in the formulation of a defense, as well as their ability to communicate with counsel rationally," Wentzell wrote.

Both Vaccarella and Aiken testified that Vossen was incompetent. Gilbertson concluded Vossen was competent despite some cognitive decline.

"Though (the evaluators) varied on the extent of (Vossen's) impairment, each of the three experts opined that (Vossen) displayed serious memory complications," Wentzell wrote.

Read more of the West Central Tribune's coverage of Algene Vossen in the Mae Herman homicide in The Vault.