David LaMorie was watching TV this week when a familiar mug shot appeared: Jonathan Loun, 31, charged with second-degree murder in the death of 3-year-old Dante Sears.
Sitting in his south Minneapolis apartment, LaMorie was suddenly transported to a Pine County highway.
There, a decade ago, he learned that his brother and best friend, Richie LaMorie, was dead after being run over by Loun, his roommate. Loun was charged in 2005 with criminal vehicular homicide and, after a plea deal, was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
“If they would have just put him away for more than 41 months, this little baby probably would still be alive.”
Before being accused last week of brutally beating Dante — leaving him bleeding and unconscious in his crib — Loun had a long rap sheet that, in addition to vehicular homicide, included fleeing a peace officer and theft.
On Friday morning, Loun appeared in court on charges of second-degree murder and malicious punishment of a child. His public defender did not return a phone call afterward asking for comment. Prosecutors say that Loun left a note beside Dante’s bloodied body, apologizing and saying he “snapped.”
Last year, Loun was convicted of violating the order of protection requested by his mother, who told authorities that she was “fearful of my son and what he is capable of doing.” In 2006, Loun was charged with malicious punishment of a child and domestic assault, accused of slapping his girlfriend’s 7-year-old son. Those charges were dismissed in November of that year because Loun was already in prison, serving time for LaMorie’s death.
This week, Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson agreed with the LaMorie family’s belief that Loun should have gotten more time for that crime, which occurred long before Frederickson took charge. Criminal vehicular homicide carried a possible penalty of 41 to 57 months, which is “ridiculously low,” said Frederickson, who was elected in 2014 after arguing that the former county attorney wasn’t aggressive enough in pushing for jury trials.
Given that paltry penalty, “I especially think it’s inappropriate to give someone the low end unless there are extreme mitigating circumstances,” Frederickson said Friday. “I think more could have been done, especially considering that his actions led to someone’s death and he tried hiding the body after the event.”
At 4 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2005, Loun called 911, saying that he had struck a pedestrian on Hwy. 48, east of Hinckley. Troopers had a tough time finding Richard LaMorie’s body, finally discovering it “tucked under tree limbs,” according to the complaint, “and it appeared that an attempt had been made to hide the body.”
Loun told the troopers that he and his roommate had been driving home from a casino when they began arguing. LaMorie said he wanted to get out of the car, Loun said, so he stopped the car and let him out. After heading west, Loun decided to turn around and find his friend, he said then, but hit him instead.
“Loun stated that he never intended to harm LaMorie,” the complaint said. Troopers found vehicle parts all over the highway, in areas that Loun claimed he never traveled. After smelling alcohol on his breath, they arrested him. As part of his plea deal, a second count, interference with a dead body, was dropped.
David LaMorie, 32, said his close-knit family went to every court hearing, seeking justice for the loss of Richie, who turned 21 just a few weeks before his death. The brothers, 11 months apart in age, played and worked together, and dreamed of buying houses on the same block so they could raise their kids together.
Richie was a “nice, kind, good person,” said his mother, Linda McKenzie, 54. “He was loving, really smart.”
He had studied for a few semesters at Augsburg College in Minneapolis and dreamed of becoming a Marine. When he died, he was working at Grand Casino in Hinckley, where he met Loun.
“He was young and didn’t know what he wanted to do,” David LaMorie said, “but he was on that mission to find out. And then he got robbed.”
Richie’s death tore David apart, and for a while, he tried to numb himself with drugs, he said. But he’s since gone to counseling. He’s working through it, but he’ll never get over it, David said. On his left forearm, there’s a tattoo: Richie’s name, in cursive, on a cross.
In 2006, Loun was out on bail, awaiting trial for the LaMorie case, when he allegedly hit a 7-year-old, leaving marks, according to charges that were later dismissed.
An unnamed man reported that Loun, who was dating his ex-girlfriend, had assaulted his son, according to the complaint. An officer observed red rash-like marks on the boy’s face that “looked like handprints.”
The girlfriend told the officer that Loun said the boy had hit his sister and made her nose bleed, so Loun slapped him on the face.
He was charged in Kanabec County with malicious punishment of a child and fifth-degree domestic assault. Later that year, those charges were dismissed, because Loun was already in prison, according to a motion to dismiss.
In 2013, Roberta Dahlby petitioned for an order for protection against her son, Jonathan Loun, saying he went into rages, yelling and breaking things. She was driving him to a court appearance when he again got angry, pulling the glasses off her face and the faceplate off the dashboard. “I wish I could slit your throat,” she quoted him as saying.
“My son has threatened to kill me and his abusive behavior is escalating,” Dahlby wrote. “I believe he needs a medical evaluation.”