Montevideo man charged in 2013 strangulation death
MONTEVIDEO -- A 21-year-old Montevideo man was charged on Tuesday with manslaughter in the second degree for the strangulation death of Thomas Dickson, 64, in Montevideo on Dec. 23, 2013.
MONTEVIDEO - A 21-year-old Montevideo man was charged on Tuesday with manslaughter in the second degree for the strangulation death of Thomas Dickson, 64, in Montevideo on Dec. 23, 2013.
Harley William Hatch allegedly confessed to a Montevideo police officer during a recent jailhouse interview that he strangled Dickson while performing a sex act, according to a criminal complaint filed in district court.
Hatch is currently in the Yellow Medicine County Jail in Granite Falls, where he is being held on a felon in possession of a firearm charge from an unrelated case. Montevideo Police Sergeant Ken Schule interviewed Hatch in the jail on January 10. The officer wanted to talk to Hatch about the Dickson homicide as well as other, unrelated criminal investigations in which Hatch may be involved or have knowledge.
The complaint alleges that during the interview Hatch “eventually confessed that he was involved in taking the life of Dickson, and explained to (Sergeant) Schule how he and Dickson met online.’’
The fatal meeting was only the second time the two had met. According to the complaint, Hatch responded to an online, Craigslist advertisement from Dickson. The two had sex in Dickson’s Montevideo apartment in mid-December, 2013, and exchanged phone numbers when Hatch left.
Hatch said he had received messages from Dickson about meeting up again, contacted him and went to his apartment on December 23, the complaint alleges.
Hatch said that Dickson had a variety of sexual bondage items. Dickson asked him to fasten his hands to the bed and to choke him with a leash. Hatch said he put the leash around Dickson’s neck, applied pressure and left off on the pressure when the victim made a gasp or cough, according to the complaint.
Hatch said Dickson did not respond when he tried talking to him. He got scared and left with the leash. Hatch stated that he did not recall moving Dickson or untying his wrists. He stated that he figured Dickson was dead when he left the apartment, according to the complaint.
A friend of Dickson found the victim’s body that evening when he went to the apartment. He contacted police and emergency responders. They found Dickson’s naked body on the bed, stomach down, and his arms at his side. They saw red blotches on Dickson’s side near his chest. They could not find a pulse, but they attempted CPR to revive him without success.
Montevideo Police Chief Adam Christopher said that Hatch was not initially a suspect in the Dickson case. Emails and information collected from the victim’s computer as the investigation progressed led officers to consider Hatch as a suspect.
Hatch has a history of trouble with the law, and was well-known to local law enforcement. Since 2012, the Montevideo Police had logged 57 different “involvements’’ with the defendant, said the chief.
Hatch’s criminal history includes charges for burglary, theft, and assaults. He was also the alleged victim of a stabbing last October while employed at Ice Castle and American Surplus in Montevideo. A fellow employee is charged with having stabbed Hatch in the leg. Hatch had a relationship with the man’s daughter, according to the charges in the case.
Chief Christopher said investigators were optimistic that the Dickson homicide could be solved, but that it was an investigation that required lots of time. Dickson’s computer contained large numbers of emails and he was a frequent social media user. Searching through all of the electronic data and leads they provided was like peeling away the layers of an onion, he explained.
The charge of manslaughter in the second degree carries a possible, maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. The charge accuses Hatch of causing the death by “culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.’’
Chippewa County Attorney David Gilbertson said he does not intend to convene a grand jury or file any additional charges in the case.
Dickson has no surviving family in the area. He had been working at Chandler Industries in Montevideo at the time of death. He had previously lived in the Twin Cities and Colorado.
Following his death in 2013, police were able to locate a surviving brother in Texas. He said he had not had contact with him for 30 years. Dickson is a Vietnam veteran and his body in interred at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis.