Boy, 12, arrested in shooting death is due in court today

  • Article by: Richard Meryhew
  • Star Tribune
  • October 24, 2007 - 9:40 AM

RAYMOND, MINN. - LuAnn Knott was busy doing the laundry in her basement when the telephone rang.

A neighbor from down the street wanted to know about all the noise and commotion on Knott's end of the block.

"What do you mean?" the longtime Raymond resident asked, peeking out the back door of her house late Monday afternoon.

As she looked west toward the farm fields that border this small, west-central Minnesota town, she saw a school bus, an ambulance and a few police cars outside the house of her neighbors, Keith and Stacy Amborn. Knott initially thought there'd been an accident.

Hours later, she learned the truth -- Keith G. Amborn, 36, was dead, and a 12-year-old boy who lived with the family was in custody for shooting him and due in court today.

"I couldn't believe it," Knott, 77, said Tuesday, sitting at her kitchen table and glancing over at the split-level house where the Amborns had lived for only the past seven or eight months. "I still don't believe it that this could happen."

The boy's relationship to Amborn was not entirely clear to neighbors, who described him as an adopted or foster son. He was being held in the Kandiyohi County Juvenile Detention Center on suspicion of second-degree murder.

Sheriff Dan Hartog wouldn't comment on a possible motive for the shooting, but he said the boy is the youngest juvenile to be arrested in connection with a deadly shooting in Kandiyohi County in the nearly 30 years he's worked for the Sheriff's Office.

"Twelve years old, geez," Hartog said. "He should be out at the playground someplace."

In Minnesota, there has been at least one other shooting involving a 12-year-old killing a parent, a 1993 case in which a Fillmore County girl shot her stepfather. There have been several cases involving 14-year-olds killing a parent or stepparent.

Hartog said the boy will appear in juvenile court in Kandiyohi County this morning, when he is expected to be formally charged.

Minnesota law requires that he be treated as a juvenile. The minimum age for prosecuting a minor as an adult is 14, and then only if the prosecutor can demonstrate to the judge that keeping the case in juvenile court would be detrimental to public safety.

'No history of calls or trouble'

Hartog said authorities were notified of the shooting about 4:40 pm. Monday when one of Amborn's juvenile daughters called 911 to report that her father had suffered a gunshot wound to his arm.

By the time the first deputies arrived on the scene, an ambulance crew from the city of Raymond was taking Amborn to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar, about 12 miles away, where he later died.

Hartog said deputies found the 12-year-old at the house along with a handgun they believe was used in the shooting. They later arrested the boy.

Hartog would not say where in the house Amborn was shot or whether he was shot more than once.

Results of an autopsy performed by the Ramsey County medical examiner were not released Tuesday.

As sheriff's squad cars sat parked outside the light blue, split-level house Tuesday, neighbors drove by slowly or peered out windows, wondering what went wrong.

Hartog said authorities had never been called to the house, which sits at the corner of a tree-lined intersection on the far west end of the farming community of 800 residents, which is about two hours west of the Twin Cities.

"There's no history of calls or trouble," he said.

Knott said the Amborns and their three children moved into the neighborhood earlier this year after previously living in nearby Renville.

She said she and her husband, Don, would occasionally talk with the kids when they were out in their back yard playing with their dogs or cats. And last spring, "we got some rhubarb from them over here," she said, pointing to a rhubarb patch.

But she said the family was extremely quiet and mostly kept to themselves, engaging in small talk if they were working outside or barbecuing.

"I didn't even know the kids' names," she said.

Knott said if there was trouble, she was not aware of it. "I never heard the mother or dad scold them," she said. "It's beyond me what happened."

Other neighbors say the family was almost too quiet.

"Almost reclusive," said Tony Thissen, who lives down the block. "I didn't even know [Keith Amborn] had a son, to be honest with you."

Victoria Tews, who lives directly across the street, said her fiancé once helped Keith Amborn's oldest daughter look for a missing cat. When they found it, Keith Amborn "took it and said, 'Thank you.' And that was it," she said.

"It's really sad to look back," she added. "We could count on one hand the times we saw those children outside. And every one of those times, they had the dad with them. They never left the yard. There were no bikes.

"This is a beautiful small town," she continued. "... Everybody knows everything. Kids are always around. But those kids were never outside. ... You never heard yelling coming from the house, but you never saw them.

"I thought it was more because they were new to the area. Give them some time. But in retrospect, I wish I had said something. I didn't even know their names. That's how horrible I feel."

Knott said she thought Keith Amborn was working at a sugar beet plant in Renville, but Hartog said Amborn was not employed at the time of his death.

"I can't figure it out," Knott said, shaking her head. "It boggles my mind."

Richard Meryhew • 612-673-4425

Richard Meryhew •

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