When authorities arrived at the farm in rural southwestern Minnesota at 1 a.m. Thursday and asked Elizabeth Hawes about a large illegal fire, her response was: "That's not my brother."
But dental records indicate that the skeletal remains in the fire pit did belong to her brother, Edwin Hawes, 46 -- the same brother whom siblings Elizabeth and Andrew Hawes talked about killing several times in front of Elizabeth's husband, according to court documents released Monday.
In a plot allegedly involving accusations of embezzlement from the family business, Elizabeth and Andrew Hawes left little to chance, according to a complaint filed in Anoka County District Court. Before Edwin Hawes' body was burned, Anoka County authorities believe, he was shot in the chest by a crossbow at his Andover home, beaten over the head with a baseball bat, run over, and then taken across the state, where his charred remains were discovered at Andrew Hawes' and his girlfriend's Westbrook farm.
Elizabeth Hawes, 43, and Andrew Hawes, 36, were charged Monday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. So was Andrew Hawes' girlfriend, Kristina Marie Dorniden, 29, who, like Andrew and Elizabeth Hawes, was found by authorities at the fire. The three are being held in the Anoka County jail. If convicted, each could face a maximum 40-year sentence.
The blood found in Edwin Hawes' driveway, on his home's exterior and on the undercarriage of his Volkswagen Passat was fresh when discovered by authorities last week. But the tension between the Hawes siblings was several years old, said Mark Miles, Edwin's employer for the past 18 months and his friend for nearly 20 years.
Elizabeth and Andrew Hawes believed Edwin had embezzled funds from the family landscaping business, said Lt. Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff's Office, a claim Miles substantiated.
"It's been an ongoing nightmare," Miles told the Star Tribune. "Andrew claimed Ed stole money and chased Ed out of the business at gunpoint." Andrew was arrested in September on a charge of first-degree assault, accused of trying to run over his brother with a car.
"Ed wrote in a letter, 'Listen, it's all easily solvable,'" said Miles, who has turned over records to the Sheriff's Office. "But they weren't going to listen."
Edwin Hawes was the oldest sibling -- and his family's odd man out for years. At Monday's hearings, Elizabeth Hawes winked from the stand and smiled at a woman who was later overheard identifying herself as Elizabeth's mother. Outside the courtroom, the woman told two acquaintances that, "I love all my children," but she blamed the family's troubles on her "lost oldest son," whom she called a "sociopath."
Miles told authorities that Edwin Hawes never missed a day of work in 18 months with the Green Guardian landscaping service of St. Paul. He also said Ed Hawes didn't smoke or drink. He was divorced and leaves behind a young daughter by another relationship, Miles said.
So tense was Edwin's relationship with his siblings that he had restraining orders filed against both of them. The restraining order against Elizabeth was filed on Sept. 25 in Hennepin County. In the restraining order against Andrew, filed July 24 in Hennepin County, Edwin said Andrew ransacked his office in March 2007 and went to his parents' home "threatening to kill me."
Daniel Romig, Elizabeth Hawes' husband, told authorities that he heard his wife and Andrew planning to kill Edwin "several times, " but didn't want to believe it.
The plan, he told authorities, included Dorniden dropping off Andrew near Edwin's Andover residence and using a crossbow to kill Edwin. According to court documents, Romig said Andrew would load Edwin's body into his VW and then get rid of the car and body to make it look as if he just left town.
Edwin was last seen Wednesday night at Lifetime Fitness in Coon Rapids, according to court documents. An hour later, a neighbor said he heard multiple male voices outside. "It didn't sound right," the neighbor told authorities.
Romig said that it was clear that by 9 p.m. last Wednesday when Andrew showed up at Romig's home in south Minneapolis, that Andrew had been in a struggle with and had killed Edwin, he told authorities. Andrew told Romig that he'd "repossessed" the Passat, Romig told authorities.
On Thursday, Edwin's housemate, Martin Weltman, told authorities that Edwin's 2005 Passat was missing. Authorities found a pool of blood in the driveway -- a "critical" amount, according to Dr. Janis Amatuzio, Anoka County medical examiner. Within the pool of blood, a key to Edwin's front door was found, according to court documents. Near that were a pair of pants matching Edwin's size and a broadhead from an arrow.
Also found were a crossbow, arrow and baseball bat, all painted black, and a hammer, Sommer said. The smell of bleach permeated the scene, an attempted cleanup, authorities surmised in the complaint.
Late that night, the Westbrook police were called to investigate a fire at the farm that Dorniden and Andrew Hawes own. There, officials also found a Ford pickup truck with a significant amount of blood in the bed.
Miles could not help but think about the letter he said Edwin sent to Andrew about two years ago, regarding their financial dispute. It was Dorniden who kept the financial records that convinced Andrew that Edwin was embezzling funds, Miles said.
"You're my brother," Edwin wrote to Andrew, according to Miles. "I love you."
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419