Myong Ki Gossel’s St. Paul home was ransacked when police arrived on Jan. 4, 2017. Drawers hung open and items were scattered across the floor.
On the basement steps, retired St. Paul police officer Alta Schaffer testified Friday, investigators found a lock of gray hair. In the laundry room, Gossel, a 79-year-old widow, was found with at least 46 blows to her head and body.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Thomas Hatch told jurors that Kevin Reek, 47, murdered Gossel in a fit of rage when two of his co-conspirators bilked $16,000 from her and left him out of the scam.
“She was badly, brutally beaten and left to die on the basement floor …,” he said in opening statements Thursday.
Reek, of Pikeville, Tenn., went on trial this week on one count each of first-degree murder with intent and second-degree murder with intent.
Reek’s attorney, John Sadowski, told jurors that Reek’s associates — Richard Joles and Perrin Cooper Jr. — had conspired to blame Reek. They abandoned Reek at a gas station, stole his truck and drove to Gossel’s home in the 2300 block of Nokomis Avenue and “shook her down,” Sadowski said in his opening statements.
Joles and Cooper are close because Joles dated Cooper’s sister, Sadowksi said.
“Credibility is everything,” he said, without explicitly saying that they killed Gossel.
Authorities believe the three men traveled from Indiana to Minnesota to get money from Gossel. Joles had previously done yard work for Gossel, who was known to keep large amounts of cash in her home. He and Cooper obtained $10,000 from her in December 2016, Hatch said.
Gossel was murdered on Jan. 2, the prosecutor said, and surveillance video and cellphone evidence placed the three men near her home. Friends found her on Jan. 4.
Reek’s DNA was found on Gossel’s sweatshirt, a refrigerator and a wall to the basement, Hatch told jurors.
Cooper, 30, pleaded guilty to simple robbery in the case.
Joles, 31, is scheduled to stand trial in October on one count each of first-degree murder with intent and second-degree murder with intent.
Cooper is expected to testify at Reek’s trial next week.