It started over a missing bottle of pills and a plot to get them back, and ended with a man fatally shot through the neck as his girlfriend sat next to him.
On Monday two young women from suburban neighborhoods, Briana Martinson of Prior Lake and Megan Cater of Lakeville, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for their roles in setting up the robbery-turned-slaying of their drug dealer.
The two, whose trial was set to begin before the last-minute plea deal, had been facing life in prison, but now could be sentenced anywhere from 10 to 16 years in prison during an April 6 hearing.
Martinson and Cater are among six people involved in the death of 19-year-old Corey Elder. Another man who assisted in the plot awaits his own murder trial set for April 2, while the triggerman and two others also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for the likelihood of lighter sentences.
Cater's and Martinson's families hired two prominent defense attorneys to initially argue that the women were forced to participate in the robbery after two north Minneapolis men threatened to kill them.
"It just shows what can happen when young people get involved with drugs," Martinson's attorney Earl Gray said after the plea hearings Monday.
Hennepin County prosecutors were set to argue that Cater, 19, and Martinson, 21, organized robbing Elder and were committed to following it through.
Before the plea hearings, Martinson and Cater wept as they embraced their families. After they admitted their roles in the crime to Judge Kerry Meyer, deputies took them into custody.
Police reports, court records, text messages and the women's confessions in court reveal the plot that led to Elder's death.
'My ghetto Shakopee friends'
Sometime on April 26, 2017, Martinson realized she lost her bottle of Gabapentin. The medication had been prescribed to her for seizures, but in text messages to her close friend Cater she said that she also hoped to sell the pills.
"Dude, pretty sure my gabs are at Corey's house," Martinson wrote about Elder.
She and Martinson had spent time the day before at Elder's Bloomington apartment, where his girlfriend later told investigators that the two were "regular customers." When Elder and his girlfriend woke up the next day, they saw Martinson's pills. He wanted to sell them and told his girlfriend not to say anything.
Growing up, Elder wanted to be a famous rapper. He had a love for writing and performing music, his mother, Bobbie Alhaqq said. He was kind, and sweet and wanted to make people laugh, his friends said. But at around age 14 they said he started dealing pot. His friends tried to pull him out of it, but they said that for Elder making money became its own addiction.
His mother said her son was always a hard worker who was beginning to check out trade schools with auto mechanics programs.
Martinson texted Cater that she was positive the pills weren't in her home, a nearly 3,000-square-foot, five-bedroom residence last valued at nearly $500,000. She'd give Elder and his girlfriend one more chance to admit that they had the pills.
"I have to make a gab deal," Martinson texted.
"I hope dude or else it's straight dirt," Cater replied.
"If it is," Martinson responded, "we're going there and I'm bring my ghetto shakopee friends dude."
The next day, Martinson texted another friend she knew from Lakeville, 20-year-old Alec Streit. She told him about the pills. Streit believed Elder had stolen his stuff, too, and wanted it back.
Streit and Martinson decided one of them would text Elder's girlfriend and say they wanted Xanax. That would get them into apartment.
And then, "ya, we're beating the [expletive] out of Corey then taking everything," Streit wrote to Martinson.
"Okay let's split it all since it's a group deal," Martinson replied.
Then a few texts later, she asked Streit: "Do U guys have a gun just in case?"
That posed a problem. Streit didn't have a gun. But he knew someone who might know how to get one, a friend from Lakeville, Noah Peterson.
Peterson, 21, had a connection with a friend he had known since middle school, 21-year-old Tarrance Murphy. Peterson promised Murphy coke and money if he'd help him rob someone. Murphy was living with his friend, Maurice Verser, in his north Minneapolis apartment. Verser overheard the conversation. He wanted in and said he could get a gun.
The robbery was on.
"Dude, Al [Streit] wants to run up on him [Elder] tonight," Cater texted to Martinson the afternoon of April 27. "Alec's friend has a strap he's from south minne."
That night, Martinson, Cater, Streit, Peterson, Verser and Murphy sat scrunched together in a car in the parking lot of Elder's Bloomington apartment building, where they devised their plan. The women would go in first and look for the drugs and money. Verser and Murphy would go in and rough up Elder and scare his girlfriend. Streit and Peterson would wait in the car, ready to be the getaway. At that point, Verser and Streit would later say, no one wanted to back out. Everyone knew a gun would be involved.
As they walked to the apartment, Cater later told police that either Verser or Murphy told the women that "if they flaked out, he'd kill them."
Martinson pounded furiously on the door. Elder answered, and the two women immediately burst in with Murphy and Verser behind them. The women ran to Elder's room knowing he kept the drugs there and grabbed cocaine and Xanax. Verser threatened to kill the women if they tried to leave the room, Cater later told police.
When Verser saw Elder's girlfriend, he forced her on to Elder's bed, pointed the gun at her head, and told her he'd kill her if she left the bedroom.
Murphy beat on Elder, but he fought back. Verser started pistol whipping Elder, eventually making their way into his room. Elder fell on the bed, where his girlfriend was sitting. Elder dared Verser to shoot. Cater later told police that she and Martinson begged the two men not to kill Elder. Suddenly she heard a shot.
Verser squeezed the trigger.
The four ran from the apartment. Elder was dead by the time police arrived.
With Elder's girlfriend as a witness, it didn't take long for police to identify Martinson and Cater as two potential suspects. After arresting Cater first, police found drugs in her car taken from the robbery.
Cater told police about Streit's and Peterson's involvement. Peterson in turn told police about getting Murphy involved. After Murphy was arrested, he confessed to everything.
In May, a grand jury indicted all six for first-degree murder. Streit, Verser and Murphy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and now face 12 to 32 years in prison. Peterson is in jail.
Cater's and Martinson's families declined to comment.