Which family member killed Edwin Hawes?
Was it Andrew Hawes, 37, who "worshiped" his older brother but who, according to court records and testimony at the opening of his murder trial Monday, was at the scene of Edwin's 2008 killing, ran over him with a car and had accused him of embezzling $1 million from the family lawn-care business?
Andrew's team of public defenders say it was not. His lawyers pointed to brother-in-law Daniel Romig, 47, who was granted immunity when he testified before a grand jury and has not been charged in Edwin's death, and whose attorney says he was not involved. Andrew's defenders said in Anoka County court Monday that Romig likely shot Edwin Hawes, 46, through the lung with a crossbow, and they implied that Romig fractured Edwin's skull and pelvis by bludgeoning him with hammers, mallets or a baseball bat at Edwin's Andover home.
Then there is Elizabeth Hawes, 45, Edwin and Andrew's sister and Daniel Romig's wife. Accused of helping to plan Edwin's death, she was sentenced to life in prison without parole after her murder conviction in January. According to court documents and testimony, a dysfunctional family feud that erupted in bloodshed ended with Andrew and Elizabeth transporting Edwin's body 200 miles to a family farm, where his remains were burned in a fire pit.
The day Elizabeth Hawes was sentenced, Andrew said he would waive his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and testify about his "personal knowledge" of Edwin's death, according to a document filed in Anoka County court. Last Friday, Elizabeth's request for a new trial was denied.
With Andrew Hawes dressed in a green shirt and tie and smiling often before opening arguments, Jennifer Pradt, one of his attorneys, spoke for the defense. She told of how "Andrew grew up admiring his brother" and how he once called Edwin his "hero" in a school essay. But that changed in 2007 when Andrew found a second set of books for the Hawes Lawn Service business the siblings founded.
"Where was all the money?" Pradt asked.
Oct. 29, 2008, seemed a typical day for Edwin Hawes. He went to work at Green Guardian Lawn Care in St. Paul and then spent three hours at a Lifetime Fitness spa in Coon Rapids, getting a facial, manicure and pedicure, witnesses said. But around 7 p.m., Thomas Richards, an Andover neighbor, saw "more cars than usual" in Edwin's horseshoe-shaped driveway and heard "odd noises" coming from the premises, he testified.
Andrew and Romig were at Edwin's home to take back his Volkswagen Passat, which they had been financing, but chaos ensued, Pradt said. When Romig and Edwin began to scuffle, Andrew panicked and did nothing, Pradt said. At one point, Andrew watched Romig carrying Edwin's body over his shoulder, she said.
But Romig had "absolutely nothing to do with the events leading to his brother-in-law's death," Bill Mauzy, Romig's attorney, told the Star Tribune. "It's the old some-other-dude-did-it defense," Mauzy said.
Bryan Leary, another of Andrew's lawyers, said he's been told by Mauzy that Romig would take the Fifth if called to testify in Andrew's trial.
Prosecutor Paul Young told a story much different from Andrew's to the 14-member jury and Judge Sharon Hall. He said Edwin was shot from behind with a crossbow, beaten and run over, and that his 180-pound body was reduced to 42 pounds by fire at the Cottonwood County farm Andrew owned with his fiancée, Kristina Dorniden, 30, scheduled to be tried for murder in June.
Those 42 pounds tell of a violent plan, execution and cover-up, said Young, working with Deidre Aanstad, the same team that prosecuted Elizabeth Hawes.
When Anoka County deputies arrived at Edwin's home in Andover, they found a pool of blood in his driveway and Edwin's wallet in the street. Elizabeth, who was forbidden by court order from being near Edwin's home, was picked up walking in the area hours later, at 2:34 a.m. Andrew was also spotted by deputies in the area. He said he was suffering from a diabetic attack, attorneys and witnesses said. Both were released.
"This is a story of money, loss and anger," said Pradt.
Andrew and Elizabeth had previously gone to three agencies, hoping one would charge Edwin with embezzling, Young said. But there were no charges. The statute of limitations might have run out, Pradt said.
The siblings then took matters into their own hands, Young said.
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419