DAKOTA COUNTY

Second guilty plea in Anarae Schunk death

A little over a week before his trial was to begin, Shavelle Chavez-Nelson admitted guilt Friday in the 2013 stabbing death of 20-year-old University of Minnesota student Anarae Schunk.

In exchange for his guilty plea, Chavez-Nelson, 33, is expected to receive a 17-year prison sentence. He is currently serving a sentence of life in prison without parole for the murder of Palagor Jobi, which happened shortly before Schunk was killed. Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said Schunk's family supported the plea deal because they didn't want the trauma of a trial.

Last February, Ashley Conrade, 25, the girlfriend of Chavez-Nelson, pleaded guilty to aiding an offender after the fact. If his case had gone to trial, she would have testified against him. She will be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Authorities believe Schunk, of Burnsville, was killed early on Sept. 22 — stabbed 22 times with a kitchen knife — at Conrade's Rosemount townhouse.

Her body was found Sept. 30 in a roadside ditch in Lonsdale, in Rice County.

Investigators say Schunk went with Chavez-Nelson and Conrade to Nina's Bar & Grill in Burnsville around 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 22, 2013. At closing time, Chavez-Nelson got into a fight with Jobi in the parking lot. Jobi, 23, of Savage, was shot dead.

After the shooting, the three returned to Conrade's townhouse, where Schunk was last seen alive. Investigators believe she was killed there between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m.

DAVID CHANEN

HENNEPIN COUNTY

Man pleads guilty to killing his young son

A 24-year-old Brooklyn Park man on Friday pleaded guilty to second-degree intentional murder in the death of his 23-month-old son.

Reggie Delaine Harper had been in the Hennepin County jail awaiting a Jan. 25 trial in the Dec. 9, 2014, beating death of Kazerion Harper. The plea deal he accepted Friday means he will spend a maximum of 40 years in prison, according to County Attorney Mike Freeman. In exchange, a first-degree murder charge was dropped.

According to the charges, Harper assaulted Kazerion because he was crying in his crib. He would not allow the baby's mother to tend to him. Instead, he punched him repeatedly and threatened to hurt his mother if she interfered.

By the time paramedics arrived, Harper had fled, the charges said. Kazerion was pronounced dead at the hospital. An autopsy showed that he had three broken ribs, a tear in his right lung and a separated liver.

According to county child protection records, Reggie Harper had been reported at least three times for abusing his children. Kazerion had been placed in foster care in 2013, then reunited with his mother in March 2014.

STAFF REPORT

PELLAND, MINN.

Death in burned gas station investigated

Authorities in northern Minnesota will spend the weekend trying to piece together the sequence of events of a bizarre crime in which a man allegedly broke into a gas station, threatened to shoot responding police and was later found dead inside the burned-out building.

What authorities know is that Colton Tammi, 26, died in the incident that played out Wednesday night at the Y Knot gas station and convenience store in Pelland, an unincorporated community about 8 miles west of International Falls.

What they don't know is how Tammi died, why he was inside the gas station, which was closed at the time, or how the building started on fire.

"We hope to piece it together over the weekend," said Koochiching County Sheriff Perryn Hedlund.

Dispatchers got a call about a break-in at the gas station at the intersection of Hwys. 11 and 71 around 11:30 p.m. Dispatchers contacted the suspect later identified as Tammi by phone. Tammi threatened to shoot any officers who responded.

Officers surrounded the building and tried to talk Tammi into walking out of the store. He refused. At some point a fire broke out and engulfed the station. When the fire was out, authorities found Tammi dead inside, Hedlund said.

Hedlund said Tammi, a local resident, was known to police, but declined to specify why.

TIM HARLOW

PENNOCK, Minn.

Snowplow driver survives crash into train

A 109-car freight train collided with a snowplow in central Minnesota, pitching the truck driver through his vehicle's windshield, authorities said.

After tumbling over the truck's hood, 31-year-old Darin Pierce recalled a day later, "The next thing I remember is hitting the ground. I stood up and said, 'What the heck just happened? I saw the train that went by, and I said, 'I just got hit by a train.' "

The husband and father of two adolescent girls said from his home in Pennock, Minn., that he's grateful to come away from the wreck Wednesday morning with 15 stitches in his thumb, a slight fracture in his spine that will heal on its own, and many bumps and bruises.

"If I had been 4 feet further across the tracks, I don't think I would have survived," he said.

The collision occurred about 8:50 a.m. at the rail crossing on 493rd Avenue in Brooten, according to the Stearns County Sheriff's Office.

Pierce, driving a truck contracted by North Fork Township and the city of Brooten for snow removal, was heading south on 493rd and stopped at the railway crossing, authorities said. He proceeded forward and collided with the eastbound train.

"I pulled up there … and there are trees off to the left," Pierce said. "I looked. … I don't remember hearing a horn or seeing the train."

The impact tossed Pierce, who was not wearing a seat belt, through his front windshield.

"If I would've had my seat belt on, I would've been better off," said Pierce, at first taken by ambulance to Glacial Ridge Hospital in nearby Glenwood, and from there to St. Cloud Hospital. "I was definitely lucky, and I should've worn my seat belt. I always thought I was invincible and I didn't need them."

PAUL WALSH