A jury found a 34-year-old man guilty of manslaughter in the fatal beating of a firefighter outside a western Minnesota bar.
Jacob E. Larson, 34, was convicted Wednesday in Douglas County District Court of first-degree manslaughter and aiding and abetting first-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of Steven Hlinsky, 46, on May 5, 2018, during what appears to have been a dispute over a romantic relationship.
Larson, of Kensington, Minn., was acquitted on the two most serious charges, second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
An accomplice, Troy N. Traut, 34, pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor assault charge in exchange for his testimony against Larson. Traut, of Pine River, Minn., was initially charged with all the same counts that Larson had been facing.
Hlinsky was hospitalized until May 11 and died two days later at his home in Forada, Minn. He suffered bleeding on the brain, broken facial and skull bones and a detached retina.
According to the charges, Traut approached Hlinsky, grabbed a beer bottle and tossed it against a wall in the Muddy Boot bar.
Moments later, Larson approached Hlinsky, “lights what appears to be a marijuana pipe … then exhales and blows the smoke between Hlinsky and [a friend],” read the charges against him.
As Hlinsky led Larson to the door, Traut pulled Hlinsky by one arm out the door as Larson had him in a headlock. The bar’s video did not capture the assault, and Traut and Larson both denied attacking Hlinsky that night.
Traut acknowledged suspicions about a romantic relationship he believed Hlinsky was having and argued with Hlinsky in the bar about that, the charges said.
Hlinsky was operating a fifth-generation grain farm south of Forada and was an assistant chief of the town’s Fire and Rescue unit. Three members of his rescue unit tended to him at the scene of the beating, and members were called again on May 13 to his home, where he was declared dead.