Fueled by a meth binge, Kevin Reek ransacked 79-year-old Myong Ki Gossel's St. Paul home last year looking for cash, dragged her into the basement and fatally beat her, jurors found Monday.
Jurors deliberated about 2½ hours before convicting Reek of one count each of first-degree murder with intent and second-degree murder with intent.
Three of Gossel's relatives and the lead investigator, St. Paul police Sgt. Amy Boyer, broke into tears when the verdicts were read in Ramsey County District Court.
"We're ecstatic," Boyer said afterward. Gossel's relatives declined to comment.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Thomas Hatch told jurors in closing arguments Monday morning that Reek and his co-conspirators, Richard Joles and Perrin Cooper Jr., drove from Indiana to Minnesota in January 2017 to rob Gossel. Joles had previously done yard work for her, and he and Cooper had bilked her of $20,000 in December 2016, according to evidence.
But once the meth-laced trio arrived in Minnesota, Joles and Cooper abandoned Reek at a gas station and went to Gossel's home in the 2300 block of Nokomis Avenue on Jan. 2. Hatch said that Reek believed they had left him out of the scam and went to Gossel's home later that day.
"The defendant here, Kevin Reek, was high on meth and he was in a rage," Hatch said.
Reek's DNA was found on Gossel's sweatshirt and a refrigerator. It was also found on a wall leading into the basement above a lock of gray hair on the steps, Hatch said.
Reek's attorney, John Sadowski, told jurors that Joles was the ringleader and close friends with Cooper, and that neither was credible.
"… Mr. Reek is an easy scapegoat," Sadowski said.
Sadowksi reminded jurors that a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) agent testified that DNA contamination was found in at least one test. The cause was never determined and raises concerns about the other tests, he said.
Sadowski also noted that since Joles and Cooper drove Reek's truck to Gossel's home, they could have transferred Reek's DNA from the truck to the house.
Cooper pleaded guilty to simple robbery in exchange for testifying at the trials of Reek and of Joles, which is scheduled for later this month. Joles, whose fingerprints were allegedly found on a jewelry box and filing cabinet inside Gossel's home, faces one count each of first-degree murder with intent and second-degree murder with intent.
Reek is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22. He faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years, or life with no parole if authorities find that his aggravated assault conviction from Tennessee qualifies as a "heinous crime."