A stare-down boiled over until a man fatally stabbed his father in the heart before torching their makeshift home in rural southern Minnesota, according to charges filed Tuesday.
Hardy R. Wills-Traxler, 25, was charged in Le Sueur County District Court with second-degree murder and first-degree arson in connection with the killing Sunday morning of 64-year-old Bruce Traxler in the residence they shared just outside of Le Center.
Wills-Traxler appeared in court Tuesday and remains jailed without bail. Court records do not list an attorney for him.
The father and son lived in a shed on the property that included living quarters.
Authorities were alerted to the fire by Jeffrey Traxler, Bruce's brother and the owner of Traxler's Hunting Preserve, just south of where the blaze occurred.
Jeff Traxler told a sheriff's deputy at the fire scene that his brother and nephew had not been getting along lately and believed "Hardy did something," the criminal complaint read.
According to the charges:
Within 90 minutes of the fire being reported to authorities and Traxler's body being found in the charred shed, a snowplow employee told police in Mankato that a man in a car commented that he killed his father.
Law enforcement immediately put an statewide alert to be on the lookout for Wills-Traxler and the car he was driving.
Shortly before 1 p.m., snowmobilers in Watonwan County had a similar encounter with Wills-Traxler as what occurred in Mankato, but said they saw he had a knife.
Less than 10 minutes later, Wills-Traxler was arrested near Mankato by a Blue Earth County deputy just west of Mankato.
Wills-Traxler told investigators that he and his father were talking the night before when Bruce Traxler "was just staring at him, so he stared back at his dad," the charges read.
The two started arguing, the son continued, so he went and got a knife.
Wills-Traxler said his father hit him in the shoulder, so he responded by stabbing him in the heart and numerous times elsewhere.
Feeling that he "had to get out there," he lit the shed on fire by putting pillows on the stove and turning on the burners.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482