One of three suspects has pleaded guilty in the death of a 19-year-old woman who was driven to a Wright County Park in the middle of the night, shot in the back of the head, and left to die.
Justin M. Jensen, 30, of Maple Lake, pleaded guilty Friday in Wright County District Court to aiding and abetting second-degree murder for his role in the death of Cheyenne Clough, of Buffalo. A first-degree aiding and abetting charge will be dismissed.
Jensen made what is known as an Alford plea, allowing him to admit to "some of the facts [except] the fact that he supplied the murder weapon and instructed the co-defendants to shoot Cheyenne Clough," Assistant County Attorney Brian Lutes said Monday.
The plea establishes a sentencing range of between 27 years and 40 years combining prison time and supervised release. Lutes said the prosecution will ask the court to impose the maximum amount during sentencing on May 31.
Co-defendant and accused shooter Shawn T. Benson, 22, of Buffalo, has a court hearing Tuesday, and "there could be a plea entered," Lutes said. "We have an agreement for him to plead guilty to second-degree intentional murder with a 40-year sentence, the statutory maximum."
A third defendant, Edward V. Zelko, 27, also of Buffalo, remains charged with first- and second-degree aiding and abetting murder. A court hearing is scheduled for June 1.
Benson allegedly shot Clough with a long-barreled handgun about 3 a.m. on June 1, 2016, at the entrance to Crow Springs County Park. The charges against Jensen and Zelko were for allegedly helping Benson kill Clough and fleeing with him and others to northern Minnesota. The criminal complaint against Benson said Clough argued with the others hours earlier in Benson's home about someone snitching on her boyfriend, who was wanted by police on a drug warrant. Authorities said the residence was known by law enforcement as a drug house and Clough had been living there before her death.
Jensen later told Benson and Zelko that Clough should be killed and provided the weapon, the court document continued.
Believing she was being driven home, Clough instead was taken to the park and shot several times by Benson and "left for dead," the complaint read. Clough, the mother of a then-3-year-old son, died three days later.
Benson and Jensen were arrested with other suspects near the Canadian border. Zelko was apprehended earlier while driving in central Minnesota.
Jensen provided Benson with the murder weapon, a .22-caliber handgun stolen in a burglary in Delano, according to the complaint. Benson and Zelko then got in a car with Clough, the charges added.
The gun was never found. A girlfriend of one of the men said it was thrown in a river in northern Minnesota, authorities said.