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Iron Range man set for trial in reopened Mesabi Trail murder case – Duluth News Tribune

staticwire | April 3, 2024
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Iron Range Man Facing Retrial in Mesabi Trail Murder Case

By [Your Name], CNN

HIBBING — Deshon Israel Bonnell, 23, is set to face a jury next month for the alleged shooting and killing of Joshua Robert Lavalley, 33, along the Mesabi Trail in January 2019. Bonnell, if convicted of premeditated first-degree murder, could face a mandatory life sentence without parole.

Bonnell, who was 18 at the time of the incident, is accused of leading Lavalley down the trail and executing him in retaliation for alleged advances towards his girlfriend. While Bonnell initially pleaded guilty in 2019 along with two co-defendants, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the conviction on legal technicalities.

Judge Rachel Sullivan has denied multiple defense motions seeking dismissal of the indictment, suppression of evidence, and a change of venue. The trial is scheduled to begin on May 13 at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Hibbing.

Evidence presented by Bonnell’s girlfriend, Bailey Bodell French, and their friend, Anthony Emerson Howson, indicated that Bonnell had planned to kill Lavalley after the victim allegedly made sexual advances towards French. The trio spent time with Lavalley before driving to the Kerr area where the incident took place.

French and Howson testified that Bonnell led Lavalley down the trail, where he was shot, with Howson waiting in the car. Lavalley’s body was discovered hours later by a snowmobiler, leading to his identification through fingerprints as friends and family learned of his death on what would have been his 34th birthday.

Howson opted to cooperate with prosecutors, pleading guilty to aiding and abetting intentional second-degree murder and receiving a 25 ½-year sentence. French also reached an agreement, pleading guilty to intentional second-degree murder and kidnapping, resulting in a 37 ¾-year sentence.

Bonnell, who had previously pleaded guilty to first-degree murder while committing aggravated robbery, saw his conviction overturned by the Supreme Court in December 2022. The plea was deemed inaccurate, and the case was sent back for a new trial on the original charges.

Judge Sullivan upheld the charges against Bonnell, rejecting various defense motions, including the challenge to a grand jury indictment and suppression of evidence. She also denied a motion for a change of venue based on pretrial publicity, stating that the trial would proceed in Hibbing.

The case is expected to involve a large jury pool, with jury selection beginning the week of May 13. Bonnell, represented by new counsel, will be facing the prosecution team from the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office.

The trial is anticipated to involve testimony and arguments during the week of May 20. Bonnell, currently held at the St. Louis County Jail, will await the jury’s decision, which could have significant implications for his future.

Written by staticwire


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