Jonathon Michael Diepold, 22, was among four defendants who appeared in court today at the Dakota County Government Center in Hastings in a case involving the beating of a mentally disabled man.

David Joles, Star Tribune

Prosecutors: Lie prompted attack on vulnerable man

  • Article by: JOY POWELL and ABBY SIMONS
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • October 16, 2008 - 10:49 AM

A 16-year-old girl lied to her boyfriend that a mentally disabled Lakeville man had hit her and helped lure the man to a remote location, where she egged on her boyfriend and three other men as they beat and tortured the man, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Natasha Dahn of Lakeville was an instigator of the weekend assaults on Justin Hamilton, which left him with broken ribs, burns, cuts, bruises and other injuries, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said.

She was charged with kidnapping, aggravated robbery and other crimes Wednesday, when prosecutors also brought additional charges against three of the four men accused in the abduction and beating of Hamilton, 24, of Lakeville. The men are accused of kidnapping Hamilton and taking him to a remote area of southern Dakota County, where he was assaulted over several hours Friday and Saturday nights.

"We don't know what the motive was," Backstrom said. "What we do know is that she told her boyfriend that she had been previously assaulted by the victim, which was not the case. But that's what she told them. And then they, at that point of time, took the victim to a remote location and committed these series of horrendous crimes against him."

The suspects left Hamilton bruised and cut from head to toe, with two broken ribs and burns from a cigarette lighter, before he was set loose on foot, Backstrom said.

"This is one of the most egregious crimes that has crossed my desk in recent years," Backstrom said. "It is shocking to see these violent crimes committed against a vulnerable adult."

More details emerged about the case Wednesday, including that one suspect, Timothy Ketterling, 21, of Prior Lake, is also mentally disabled. He is alleged to have been involved Friday night but not Saturday. On Wednesday, prosecutors dismissed one charge against Ketterling, that of committing an assault motivated by bias (against a vulnerable adult). He's now charged with false imprisonment, theft and third-degree assault.

Ketterling's mother, Lynn Ketterling of Prior Lake, said Wednesday that her son's involvement was minimal and accidental. She said Hamilton, a friend and ex-schoolmate, had asked him for a ride to the country Friday, where the others were waiting.

"Tim tried to stop the fighting and tried to leave," she said. "He wasn't involved in any of this brutal, ugly, icky anything."

Leading the assaults, Backstrom said, were Dahn's boyfriend, John Maniglia, 19, and Jonathan Diepold, 21, both lifelong residents of Northfield. They now face two counts each of kidnapping, false imprisonment and fourth-degree assault, as well as one count each of aggravated robbery, third-degree assault and theft.

Both men are in the National Guard. Maniglia, a private first class, and Diepold, a private, joined in fall 2007. Neither is scheduled for deployment, said 1st Lt. Randy Belden, a spokesman for the Minnesota National Guard. Both are graduates of Northfield High School.

Maniglia's MySpace page features photos from his basic training graduation, which he describes as "the proudest day of my life." He goes on to say he will do "just about anything to get myself in trouble."

His family declined to comment Wednesday.

Diepold's grandfather, Everett Diepold of Stewart, said he hadn't seen his grandson in several years. It didn't take away from the pain of seeing Diepold's face on the news, though. "He's still our grandson," he said.

The fourth man charged, Glen Ries, 33, also of Northfield, is accused of being the driver and lookout in the Saturday abduction. He faces five counts: kidnapping, third-degree assault, false imprisonment, fourth-degree assault motivated by bias and third-degree assault. Ries works full time with vulnerable adults in Northfield. An e-mail message to Ries' wife was not returned.

District Judge Rex Stacey increased bail for Ries, Diepold and Maniglia from $100,000 to $300,000 each -- $150,000 if specific conditions for release are met -- after the new charges were added. Ketterling's bail remained at $100,000.

The documents supporting the additional charges Wednesday provided new details. The charging documents and prosecutors allege that the case unfolded this way:

Friday night, Ketterling and Dahn, who had recently befriended Hamilton, picked him up from his Lakeville home about 11:30 p.m. Also in the car were Diepold and Maniglia. They drove to the country, where Diepold and Maniglia knocked Hamilton to the ground and repeatedly punched, kicked and hit him with branches and other objects over several hours.

Hamilton recalled being kicked with tan military boots as Diepold and Maniglia yelled, "You don't hit women!"

As they attacked, Diepold and Maniglia demanded money or property from Hamilton. He said he had some Xbox video games at home. Eventually, Ketterling drove all of them to Hamilton's family home. Hamilton told police he went in alone, and Diepold and Maniglia soon followed him into the house and left a short time later with the games.

On Saturday night, Hamilton was with Dahn at a fountain in downtown Northfield when Diepold and Maniglia pulled up in a truck and forced him inside. Ries was driving. Dahn went with them to the same rural area, where the beating resumed.

Authorities say Diepold and Maniglia punched, kicked and beat Hamilton with a baton. They bound him to a tree with a belt and burned him with a cigarette lighter on his neck and a heated credit card on his stomach. Dahn egged on the men and kicked Hamilton, according to the charges. At some point, Hamilton is thought to have blacked out.

Several hours later, the assailants allowed Hamilton to leave on foot. He made his way to a highway, where a passing motorist picked him up and drove him to the Northfield police station. Officers took Hamilton to a hospital, where he was treated for deep contusions, bruises, cuts and burns, as well as two broken ribs.

Police stopped a pickup truck driven by Ries. Inside, they found Hamilton's wallet and a police-style baton.

All five suspects were arrested. Authorities say Diepold, Maniglia and Dahn told police of the roles they played in Hamilton's assault. Ketterling admitted kicking Hamilton once or twice on the first night, but said he was not involved the second night, police say.

Ries drove the pickup and was a lookout during the assault on the second night, the charging documents say. Ries later said he provided the baton.

"His involvement with the case certainly shows an insensitivity to vulnerable adults," Assistant County Attorney Larry Clark said in asking that bail be increased; he said more charges could be coming.

On Monday, Hamilton's mother, Carolyn Hamilton of Lakeville, obtained two-year restraining orders against Diepold, Maniglia and Ries. In requests for the orders, she alleges the trio made threats, including "burning him alive, threatening to kill him if seen again or if he told on them."

Crime sparks outrage

On his MySpace page, Hamilton said he is a classic-car and four-wheeling enthusiast who is "sweet, kind, loyal, well-dressed, like kids and animals, good personality." The page contains poetry written to an apparent love interest.

The brutal nature of the assault against Hamilton, who is adopted and has fetal alcohol syndrome, has outraged the community and advocates for the disabled, particularly adults who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome.

"The fact that he was hanging out with a 16-year-old girl is quite telling. Developmentally, he's probably emotionally about 12 or 13," said Sue Terwey, program director for the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. "It's really important to keep in mind that [fetal alcohol syndrome] is referred to as the invisible disability. Oftentimes, you cannot see it and don't know it exists, leaving a person at high risk for many things."

That Hamilton lives with fetal alcohol syndrome will affect his emotional recovery. "This young man's ability to process what happened is going to take a long time," said Kelly Munson, the organization's program manager.

Hamilton's family released a statement expressing thanks for the support their family has received. His mother declined extensive comment. "It's a tragedy for the young men and their families all the way around," she said.

The family of Justin Hamilton has set up a trust to aid in his recovery and defray costs of his care: Wells Fargo Bank/For the benefit of Justin Charles Hamilton, 16817 Duluth Av. SE., Prior Lake, MN 55372. • 612-673-4921 • 952-882-9017

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