A Stearns County judge on Thursday found a 41-year-old St. Cloud woman guilty in the April stabbing death of a 36-year-old St. Cloud man.
Lindsay R. Shelltrack-Miller was convicted of one felony count of unintentional second-degree murder for stabbing Justin A. Berge in the chest during an altercation in an alley behind her house.
Shelltrack-Miller waived a jury trial and instead the case came before Judge Nathaniel Welte for a weeklong trial that ended Oct. 29.
According to court documents, police were called April 19 to a home in the 1500 block of 9th Avenue N., where they found Berge behind the residence making gasping sounds. Shelltrack-Miller and Berge were in a relationship and were arguing because she thought he was cheating on her, documents state.
The state's closing argument says Shelltrack-Miller texted Berge the night prior saying, "I want to hurt you now" and "You're dead." Court documents state Shelltrack-Miller asked Berge to come talk the morning of April 19 and later gave him a ride to an auto parts store so he could fix flat tires on his car, after which the two started arguing in the alley.
The state argued Shelltrack-Miller initiated contact by throwing water on him, punching his chest and spraying mace in his face; documents state she "grabs a knife from her fanny pack, opens the blade, moves her arm towards [Berge] and stabs him in the chest."
Berge was pronounced dead that day at the hospital. An autopsy determined a sharp object cut his coronary artery and stated the cause of death was not due to the methamphetamine in his system or any natural diseases he may have had at the time.
Defense attorney Wendy Sturmargued her client was defending herself against "her meth-addled boyfriend," who was 6-foot-3 inches and 316 pounds.
"What took place here was undoubtedly tragic for everyone involved. It is tragic that [he] was so addicted to methamphetamine. It is tragic that [he] was violent and abusive," Sturm wrote in her closing argument. "It is tragic that [Shelltrack-Miller] suffered so much abuse throughout her life and was herself addicted to heroin."
In its rebuttal, the state wrote self-defense would only be justifiable if Shelltrack-Miller had withdrawn from the confrontation but instead she "remained the aggressor" and used an unreasonable use of force.
In his findings, Welte wrote Shelltrack-Miller admitted she was angry with Berge and video footage shows her "acting hostile towards Berge by repeatedly advancing toward him and ultimately chasing him."
Shelltrack-Miller's sentencing is slated for Feb. 9.