Two couples have been charged in the killing of a man targeted for robbery who ended up being bound, gagged and asphyxiated in his southern Dakota County home.

The first of the four defendants, 36-year-old Timothy W. Tuit, of South St. Paul, appeared in court Monday and remains jailed in lieu of $400,000 bail in connection with the death of 55-year-old Chris J. Lafontaine, of Greenvale Township, whose body was found on July 2.

The others charged have been arrested and are identified as Tuit's girlfriend, 25-year-old Stephanie M. Peabody, of Welch, Minn.; Nicholas A. Taylor, 29, of St. Paul; and his girlfriend, Ryann E. Smith, 22, of White Bear Lake. Tuit and Taylor are brothers, the charges added.

Taylor and Smith were apprehended in Montana and await their return to Minnesota. Peabody is jailed just to the south of the Twin Cities in the Rice County jail.

Taylor and Smith are charged with second-degree murder. Taylor, Tuit and Peabody are charged with burglary. Tuit and Peabody also are charged with felony aiding an offender.

Tuit's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment. Court records do not list attorneys for the other defendants.

According to the criminal complaints:

Sheriff's deputies went to Lafontaine's home and found him dead in the bathroom after a burglary at his home was interrupted by neighbors. Cables were wrapped around Lafontaine's hands, feet and mouth.

Under one of the ties, a rag and glove covered his mouth. The medical examiner ruled that he suffered "an asphyxial type of death," the complaints read.

Shortly afterward, police in nearby Northfield stopped Lafontaine's SUV and arrested Tuit and Peabody. Taylor and Smith were located in Montana and arrested.

Peabody and Tuit told law enforcement that Smith and Taylor tied up Lafontaine and hit him with a large flashlight.

Peabody added that Taylor was laughing about the killing and was " 'extra bubbly,' " the charges read, while Smith said, " 'I didn't mean to hurt him like that.' "

A phone recovered from the SUV, believed to belong to Tuit, revealed conversations about the details of their plan and what occurred at the residence.

The Sheriff's Office said the Lafontaine and the defendants were known to each other before the killing.

A law enforcement search of the home turned up a gas can in a plastic bag, a safe strapped to a dolly and other property arranged in piles. The home's video surveillance system had been disconnected by Taylor.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482