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Victim in Montevideo murder case not particularly vulnerable, judge rules

MONTEVIDEO--The judge who presided over the Michael Grussing murder trial has rejected a motion by prosecutors seeking a harsher sentence. A Chippewa County jury found Grussing, 54, of Montevideo, guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal stabb...

MONTEVIDEO-The judge who presided over the Michael Grussing murder trial has rejected a motion by prosecutors seeking a harsher sentence.

A Chippewa County jury found Grussing, 54, of Montevideo, guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of his roommate, Kevin Richardson, 44, at their Montevideo residence on Sept. 8.

Following the Feb. 24 verdict, prosecutors argued that a sentence longer than called for by Minnesota sentencing guidelines is warranted. Grussing acted when the victim was particularly vulnerable due to intoxication, according to Robert Plesha, with the Minnesota Attorney General's office, and David Gilbertson, Chippewa County attorney.

"Although it is possible and even a probable fact that Mr. Richardson's intoxication prevented him from seeking help, defending himself, or otherwise avoiding harm, the state has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that this is so,'' stated District Judge Thomas Van Hon in an order filed March 3. "Accordingly, the Court cannot find that Mr. Richardson was particularly vulnerable due to intoxication.''

The victim had a 0.237 percent blood alcohol level at the time of his death-almost three times the legal limit for drunken driving-and there were no signs of defensive wounds on his body. However, the judge wrote in his order that court decisions have found that intoxication by itself is not necessarily proof of being particularly vulnerable.

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Richardson had been walking both before and after being slashed across his throat with a fillet knife. After the attack, he walked out of the residence, flagged down a pickup truck and climbed into the back seat. He was pronounced dead at the Chippewa County-Montevideo Hospital due to a loss of blood.

The judge wrote that the physical evidence "is susceptible to multiple interpretations" as to the circumstances of the death.

The medical examiner was unable to determine what direction Richardson's throat was slashed, or whether the attack was from the front or back. He might have been a victim of a sneak attack from the back, or a single, very quick and unexpected action in which he was unable to defend himself.

The judge noted that the jury rejected Grussing's claims that his attack occurred as a "backhanded sweep in self-defense.''

Sentencing is scheduled for April 5. The court ordered a pre-sentence investigation following his conviction. Grussing's lengthy prior criminal history will be calculated in determining the sentence based on state guidelines.

Related Topics: CHIPPEWA COUNTY
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