Bar slaying brings life to tragic full circle

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 10, 2008 - 10:19 AM

Echoes of an earlier homicide ring out for victim of weekend shooting outside St. Paul bar.

Victim of Barshooting in St. Paul. Blaine Christofferson.

Photo: Submitted photo,

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Nearly 19 years and one mile of St. Paul's East Side separate a fatal weekend shooting and a 1989 homicide.

Back then, the 20-year-old Blaine Christofferson, was convicted for providing the "muscle" during an attempted armed robbery that left a drug dealer dead.

This time, Christofferson was the victim, shot outside the Cherry Pit bar about 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Two men, who police say knew Christofferson, could be charged as soon as today in connection with his killing.

"I'm sorry it happened to him and it's too bad he didn't seem to change his life around so it didn't happen to him," Jason Fyten, 25, said Sunday. Fyten was 6 when his father was shot in front of his apartment on Maryland Avenue in 1989.

Police said the 1989 shooting happened during a shakedown for money owed. Christofferson was among four men charged in connection with that shooting, pleading guilty to attempted aggravated robbery and serving two years in prison.

At the 1989 murder sentencing of gunman Shane Garner, a judge read a letter from 6-year-old Jason Fyten and his 7-year-old sister, Jessica.

"We miss our dad a lot. Sometimes the pain is so bad we can hardly stand it and we cry a lot. ... We hope you have learned that crime doesn't pay and we forgive you and please remember, we don't hate you; so don't let this ruin your life."

Reached Sunday in Hermantown, where he works at Wal-Mart, Fyten said: "I think my dad made some mistakes, and I think this guy did, too. And they both paid the price."

Melissa Christofferson, the victim's ex-wife and the mother of one of his five children, was upset by the news.

"Blaine was a very good person, and what happened when he was 20 is not who he was today," she said.

"Nobody deserves this, regardless of what happened in the past. It was a tragedy then and a tragedy now."

'Such a happy guy'

St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh declined to release any more information Sunday about the city's third homicide of the year, saying the name of the suspects and possible charges could be announced as soon as today.

Tiffany Swanson, Christofferson's fiancée of two months, said she made him a dinner of pork chops and mashed potatoes about 10:30 p.m. Friday.

"He said he wanted to go out to the bar for a little bit," she said. They planned to meet at 2:30 a.m., after bar closing, to celebrate her birthday.

"He was such a happy guy with a big heart," she said. "He was always buying rounds of drinks."

After he failed to meet her at 2:30 a.m., Swanson got a chaotic cell phone call from Christofferson. "No one was saying anything, and when I learned what happened, I wondered if he was calling to say goodbye," she said.

A short while later, after a bar security guard performed CPR, a nurse called from Regions Hospital in St. Paul to say Christofferson had died. Swanson said one of her friends helped police connect a suspect's photo they showed her to a bar patron Friday night. Other witnesses have told police Christofferson might have engaged in an argument in the parking lot with the suspects before he was shot.

Trial moved

Christofferson worked as a collections agent for a local newspaper, Swanson said. He was also the stepson of the late Ramsey County Commissioner Warren Schaber. That connection had prompted authorities to move his 1989 prosecution to Hennepin County.

Swanson said they never talked about his earlier legal problems.

"I think that was ancient history," she said. "I just remember him for his big heart."

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

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