A northern Minnesota man lied to police and unwittingly led them to several suspects implicated in the shooting death of a teenage mother in Wright County last week, according to prosecutors.
Thomas F. Nicholson, 26, of International Falls, appeared Tuesday in Koochiching County District Court on a felony count of aiding an offender, said County Attorney Jeffrey Naglosky. Nicholson remains jailed ahead of a court hearing on June 20.
Five other defendants in the death of 19-year-old Cheyenne Clough were moved Monday from Koochiching and Todd counties to the jail in Wright County, where prosecutors are “reviewing the case for potential charges,” said Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty.
The county attorney’s office “anticipates bringing the defendants to court Wednesday,” the sheriff added, suggesting that charges against them are imminent.
Clough, of Buffalo, the mother of a 3-year-old son, died Saturday at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale from multiple gunshot wounds, the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office said. She was found last Wednesday barely alive at the entrance to Crow Springs Park in Franklin Township.
Authorities have not revealed a motive in the killing but did say Clough knew two of the defendants before the deadly encounter: Justin M. Jensen, 28, of Maple Lake, and Natasha L. Brandenburger, 33, of Buffalo.
The complaint against Nicholson laid out how police caught up with four of the suspects, all from Wright County, near the Canadian border:
Shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday, Nicholson was questioned by police at his home about two of the suspects in Clough’s death. After initially saying he had “no idea” what the officer was talking about, he said the two had been at his residence but left for Kelliher in north-central Minnesota. Another person with Nicholson said the suspects were heading to a home west of International Falls, where “they felt safer.”
The officers left but soon saw Nicholson and the other person start driving west toward a residence connected to Nicholson. Police pulled Nicholson over and arrested him.
Nicholson’s passenger said they were heading to the property west of town. She turned over three bags in the vehicle that belonged to the suspects.
Several hours later, four suspects were arrested west of Pelland Junction.
Jensen was held on a drug allegation, while Brandenburger was accused of aiding an offender. The others were a 19-year-old Delano woman held on a weapons allegation and a 21-year-old Maple Lake man accused of aiding an offender.
Also jailed Sunday after a traffic stop in Staples in central Minnesota was a 26-year-old man from Buffalo. He’s accused of aiding an offender.
The Wright County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that the investigation continues and that it is particularly interested in the activities of the five suspects in its jail from the evening of May 31 until their arrests.