WILLMAR - The man accused of fatally stabbing David Medellin has offered to plead guilty and spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole if Kandiyohi County drops charges against his girlfriend, Lori Jean Harris Gafkjen.
Caleb Aaron Blue, 35, of Willmar, made the surprise announcement in open court as a hearing concluded Friday morning in Kandiyohi County District Court in Willmar. He was indicted just over a week ago on a charge of first-degree premeditated murder, along with charges of second-degree intentional murder and terroristic threats.
Blue told District Judge Melissa Listug that Gafkjen was innocent and that he could save the court a lot of time and taxpayers' money by pleading guilty and not moving ahead with his trial. He was making the offer with the willingness to serve life in prison without parole "because that's who I am.''
Shortly before Blue addressed the court, defense attorney Bradley Kluver told the judge that his client insisted on making an offer to the court despite being advised not to do so. The attorney said that Blue's offer was only being offered if accepted today.
Before allowing Blue to speak, Judge Listug also repeated advice given Blue earlier in the hearing about his rights not to speak and warning him that any statements could be used against him.
The first-degree murder charge faced by Blue carries a presumptive sentence of life in prison.
The body of Medellin, 24, of Willmar, was found Oct. 31 in a plowed farm field east of Willmar. Medellin had been missing for several days, and is believed to have died Oct. 25 of knife wounds.
Gafjken, 51, of Brooten, appeared in court on Thursday on three felony charges of aiding an offender. She had met Blue while she worked as a corrections officer in the Kandiyohi County Jail and he was an inmate.
Two of the charges allege she was an accomplice after the fact. She allegedly drove Blue to Glacial Ridge Hospital in Glenwood to have cuts to his right hand treated. The two allegedly spent several days at a hotel in Paynesville before going to a motel in the metropolitan area.
Agents arrested Blue on Nov. 5 after he left the AmericInn in Ham Lake. He left the motel through a window as they arrived, but they intercepted him as he reached his Cadillac Seville. Special Agents Dustin Van Der Hagen, formerly with the Willmar Police Department, and James Ryerson testified at Friday's hearing that they initially brought him to the Anoka Law Enforcement Center and spoke with him there about the death of Medellin. He was not under arrest, and he left on his own.
About 10 to 15 minutes later, Van Der Hagen received new information and he and Ryerson found Blue at a nearby Super America and arrested him. They returned to the Anoka LEC and interrogated him. This time he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back.
The first interview was ended when Blue asked for an attorney, the agents said.
Both testified that Blue subsequently banged on the door or wall of the second-floor interrogation room and offered to continue talking if they got him a cigarette. After smoking a cigarette on the roof, they returned to the interrogation room.
They said Blue would alternately speak to one agent or the other. They took his statements of not wanting to talk as being directed at one of them or the other, and not as a statement that he wanted the overall interview ended.
The hearing Friday was held to consider a motion by the defense. Kluver wants a confession allegedly made by Blue to the two Bureau of Criminal Apprehension special agents suppressed. Kluver argues that any statements made by his client should be suppressed because Blue had stated he wanted an attorney and did not want to speak, but the agents continued to question him.
After the special agents testified Friday, Blue took the stand at his own insistence and against the stated advice of his attorney. He disputed their testimony and said he believed he made known his intentions to end the interrogation with the two officers but that they continued to question him.
Judge Listug said she would convene a hearing at the end of the day if the prosecution and defense agree to a plea agreement. Otherwise, the case is scheduled for an eight-day trial beginning March 20.