Oct. 17, 2008: Beating victim's mom: 'What a tragedy'

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS and JOY POWELL , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: October 17, 2008 - 8:09 AM

Carolyn Hamilton expressed outrage about the identities of the four men accused of beating her mentally disabled son -- especially the fact that two have served together in the National Guard.

Justin Hamilton's family was uneasy about his newfound relationship with a girl who authorities say instigated his kidnapping and brutal beating, his mother said Thursday.

Carolyn Hamilton said that about two weeks before the assault, her 24-year-old adopted son, who has fetal alcohol syndrome, met 16-year-old Natasha Dahn through mutual friends in Lakeville, where they both lived.

"A good friend of Justin's that he had known for years told Justin that Natasha was nice," Carolyn Hamilton said. "Justin felt that Natasha had a lot of problems and felt that she could talk to him. Justin thought he could relate to her well because he has sisters."

But friendship became betrayal, prosecutors charge, when Dahn lied to her boyfriend, telling him that Justin Hamilton had hit her.

One week ago today, authorities allege, Dahn and four men charged in the beating lured Justin Hamilton to a rural spot in Dakota County, where he was beaten and tortured by the men while Dahn urged them on. The next night, he was returned to the same location where he was tied to a tree, beaten and burned with a lighter.

Dahn was charged with kidnapping, robbery and other crimes Wednesday. Prosecutors allege that the men who led the assaults were Dahn's boyfriend, John Maniglia, 19, and Jonathan Diepold, 21, both of Northfield, who face multiple felony counts of kidnapping, assault and robbery. Glen Ries, 33, also of Northfield, is accused of being the driver and lookout in the Saturday abduction. He faces five counts on similar charges. Ries works full time with vulnerable adults in Northfield. A fifth suspect, Timothy Ketterling, 21, of Prior Lake, is also mentally disabled. He is alleged to have been involved Friday night but not in Saturday's attack. He is charged with false imprisonment, theft and third-degree assault.

All the men except Ketterling remain in custody in Dakota County; he posted bail earlier this week.

Dahn remained in the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center on Thursday in St. Paul, where she was being held because Maniglia's mother works in Dakota County's juvenile corrections center. Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said his office is seeking to have Dahn prosecuted as an adult.

Carolyn Hamilton said Thursday that her son did not know any of the men involved in the beating. The revelation that Ries works with the disabled, she said, is hard to stomach.

"I said to Justin, 'Did you know that [Ries] takes care of people like you?' and he said, 'I would never believe it.'"

Dahn's relationship with at least one of the suspects also emerged Thursday.

On the website called Myyearbook.com, a writer identified as Dahn claims she is "engaged," and her page includes a picture of Maniglia as someone she "owns." Maniglia's family declined to comment Thursday on the advice of his attorney, Dakota County Public Defender Lisa Kloster. She could not be reached Thursday night for comment.

On the same Myyearbook.com website, Dahn and Justin Hamilton had recently listed each other as friends, and, in fact, informally dubbed each other sister and brother and challenged each other to Internet games.

A woman at Dahn's home declined to comment about Natasha or Justin Hamilton on Thursday.

Carolyn Hamilton said it's still difficult to piece together what happened over those two nights before her son was released by his attackers and stumbled onto a roadway where he was picked up by a truck driver. He is still extremely emotional, she said, and under heavy medication.

What is known, however, is that Justin Hamilton, who lives with an older brother and other roommates, was believed to be on a fishing trip and that family members did not know he had returned early. Family members didn't see him between the time he arrived home early Friday and left again Saturday night. Prosecutors say that on Saturday he was again lured by Dahn to Northfield, where she promised to introduce him to a girl.

Once there, according to the charges, he was forced into Ries' truck and returned to the remote area for another beating.

Prosecutors won't say whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the beatings, but alcohol has caused problems for Maniglia in the past. He was convicted in Rice County last year on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, for which he was put on unsupervised probation for six months and ordered to perform 20 hours of community services.

Maniglia and Diepold are buddies who served together weekends in the Minnesota National Guard, a fact that makes the crime against her son all the more unbelievable, Carolyn Hamilton said. "Finding out they're in the Guard, finding out that one is not near a teenager [in age] and certainly old enough to know better -- what a tragedy. How stupid. What a senseless waste," she said. "But then I stop and think, how vicious."

Justin, she said, continues to recover at home, where he has witnessed an outpouring of support from friends and strangers alike. Carolyn Hamilton said her son most of all wants everyone to know that he didn't do anything wrong. It remains too early for talk of forgiveness.

"It's like life is supposed to go on,'' she said. "But in a lot of ways it'll never be the same."

Abby Simons • 612-673-7750 Joy Powell • 612-673-7750

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