We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

MN Supreme Court turns down appeal, leaving Vossen incompetence ruling in place in Willmar cold case homicide

With the Minnesota Supreme Court declining to review a lower court opinion, the ruling of state courts that Algene Vossen is not competent to go to trial will stand. Vossen is charged with murder in the 1974 stabbing death of Mabel "Mae" Herman in Willmar.

Gavel.jpg
We are part of The Trust Project.

WILLMAR — The Minnesota Supreme Court has declined to review lower courts’ decisions that Algene Leeland Vossen is not competent to stand trial in a 1974 homicide.

The court denied the appeal in a single-page, one-sentence order signed July 19 by Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea. That means the earlier rulings that Vossen is not competent will stand.

Vossen, 81, is charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Mabel "Mae" Agnes Boyer Herman, 73, in her Willmar. She was found Jan. 27, 1974, on the floor of the living room of her home.

VOSSEN, ALGENE LEELAND
Algene Leeland Vossen
Contributed / Minnehaha County (S.D.) Jail

Vossen was arrested in July 2020 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after DNA linked him to Herman’s death, which had gone unsolved for more than 40 years.
In May, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a 2021 Kandiyohi County District Court ruling that Vossen was not competent.

A competency exam was ordered after defense attorney Kent Marshall of Barrett said he believed Vossen had dementia and was incapable of working with him to prepare a defense.

ADVERTISEMENT

District Judge Stephen J. Wentzell found Vossen not competent in November 2021. Kandiyohi County Attorney Shane Baker appealed the ruling, alleging Vossen’s cognitive impairment was not severe enough to prevent him from going to trial.

The Court of Appeals opinion praised Wentzell’s original ruling as thorough and detailed.

After the Court of Appeals ruling, Baker filed an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has discretion in the cases it decides to hear, and it denied the Kandiyohi County appeal.

According to the Court of Appeals opinion, “There is sufficient record evidence from all three experts that Vossen has significant short-term memory-impairment issues barring him from rationally consulting with counsel.”

A criminal case must be put on hold if a defendant is not competent, the appeals court said.

Latest on crime and courts
"The part that is not resolved is not going to be resolved ever," the victim's daughter said after the sentencing. "He's obviously not going to admit to this at all, whatsoever."

According to the opinion, Vossen was unable to identify the month or the day of the week, and he couldn’t say when his wife had died, according to the opinion. He was unable to say when he was charged with murder or when he moved to his most recent home.

Vossen was arrested in 2020 after a Willmar Police Department cold case team reviewed multiple unsolved crimes, including the Herman homicide.

ADVERTISEMENT

The team looked at several suspects from that time, including Vossen. Evidence against him had been inconclusive.

The team identified evidence that could possibly be used for modern DNA analysis.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension found DNA of an apparent suspect. Other suspects in the case were ruled out, but Vossen’s DNA was not available for comparison.

More from Linda Vanderwerf
More help for low-income students, more help to connect businesses with graduates and more career counseling were some of the needs mentioned at a budget listening session Thursday at Ridgewater College. The Minnesota State college system will use the ideas to develop a budget proposal for the 2023 legislative session.
The state reported more than 6,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 last week and 34 deaths. Both those numbers fell slightly from the week before, as did hospitalizations. However, hospitalizations were more than 400 a day and have been for most of the past five months.
Christian Arevalo has pleaded guilty to one felony charge of first-degree assault on a peace officer, as an accomplice after the fact. He was not alleged to have been the shooter in the July 5 incident in southwest Willmar but accused of being the getaway driver and of obstructing the investigation.
More than 430 people are hospitalized in Minnesota with COVID-19, an increase of about 80 from a week ago, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The number of deaths has increased in recent weeks, too.
With pandemic restrictions easing, Minnesota's nursing homes are reopening to the public and asking people to once again volunteer in the facilities. Bethesda, with facilities in Willmar, New London and Olivia, has many opportunities for volunteers, who can help improve the quality of life for residents.
While the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be waning, more than 400 people have been hospitalized with the disease every day since May. The number of deaths each week has been three dozen to four dozen in recent months.
Willmar Middle School needs a new, larger gym, but plans to build one are on hold for now. Willmar Public Schools and Southwest West Central Service Cooperative had planned to build an addition to the school together, but the plans have been waylaid several times since spring 2020.
The school share of property tax bills will increase about 3%, bringing nearly $270,000 additional funding for Willmar Public Schools. The School Board also approved a tax abatement for MinnWest Technology Campus.
Willmar school officials say they don't have any pride flags in elementary schools, but a concerned parent said at Monday's Willmar School Board meeting that he believes he has seen them.
No injuries were reported when a pickup crashed into the rear of a school bus Monday morning on U.S. Highway 12 in Kandiyohi.

The department learned that Vossen lived in Sioux Falls and executed a search warrant for his DNA, with assistance from South Dakota law enforcement authorities.

In July 2020, the BCA crime lab said Vossen’s DNA was a match to the evidence found at the Willmar crime scene.

Less than a week later, officers from Willmar and South Dakota arrested Vossen at his home.

Vossen was extradited to Minnesota and booked into the Kandiyohi County Jail in September 2020. He was released on a medical furlough and has lived with a niece in Iowa since late 2020.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
What to read next
The 18th annual Upper Minnesota River Valley arts crawl — known as the Meander — took place Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, 2022.
The public hearings on Monday's Willmar City Council agenda are regarding special assessments for unpaid snow and ice removal and unpaid weed and grass mowing. The tabled action items the council is expected to consider are the rezoning and the creation of a tax increment financing district for the Unique Opportunities apartment complex project on Lakeland Drive Northeast.
Starting Oct. 5, Minnesota Highway 9 will be closed on the west side of Highway 23. Highway 9 travelers will be detoured to Kandiyohi County Road 40 for up to two days. Work is expected to end Oct. 10.
Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center held its semi-monthly Story Hour on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, at the Pioneer Cabin.