Judge OKs extra witness protection in murder caseThe St. Louis County Attorney’s Office on Wednesday took additional steps to protect witnesses in the case of the man accused of murdering Trina Langenbrunner nearly 12 years ago and who is now also accused, along with his girlfriend, of threatening witnesses against him.
By: Mark Stodghill, Pine Journal
The St. Louis County Attorney’s Office on Wednesday took additional steps to protect witnesses in the case of the man accused of murdering Trina Langenbrunner nearly 12 years ago and who is now also accused, along with his girlfriend, of threatening witnesses against him.
Joseph John Couture Jr., 41, and Sandra Kay Couture, 38, both of Cloquet, had separate hearings in State District Court in Duluth Wednesday in the case in which they are charged with aiding and abetting aggravated first-degree witness tampering by threatening another to provide false information to police, aiding and abetting first-degree degree witness tampering, and aiding and abetting third-degree witness tampering.
Authorities said that both defendants are suspected of being involved with an arson fire set at the residence of a relative of a witness against Joseph Couture in the murder case.
On Wednesday, St. Louis County prosecutor Jessica Smith filed a document, signed by Judge Sally Tarnowski, protecting the identities of four witnesses against the Coutures in the witness tampering case. The identities of two witnesses against Couture in the murder case have also been redacted from the court files for their protection, authorities said.
In her order allowing the witness names to not be disclosed at this time, Tarnowski allowed Joseph Couture’s defense attorney to reserve the right to contest the order at a later date.
The prosecution is listing the witnesses against the Coutures as Witnesses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Smith’s notice of non-disclosure of witnesses asks the court that the names not be disclosed until the prosecution informs the court that the names can be safely disclosed, no later than the time that the witnesses are sworn to testify.
“Given the nature of the underlying allegations, the state has concerns for the safety of witnesses tied to these cases and has taken the necessary steps to protect those witnesses as would be done in any case,’’ Smith said after the hearings.
Joseph Couture is being held in the St. Louis County Jail on $1.2 million bail on charges of intentional second-degree murder and second-degree criminal sexual conduct in the 2000 death of Langenbrunner, a 33-year-old mother of three.
Langenbrunner was last seen hitchhiking in the area of Brookston Road between 1:30 and 2 a.m. on Sept. 3, 2000. Joseph Couture was a neighbor of Langenbrunner at the time. The victim’s stabbed body was discovered off a rural road in southern St. Louis County.
Couture was arrested on June 15 after two witnesses came forward identifying the Level 3 sex offender as Langenbrunner’s alleged killer.
Sandra Couture is being held in the St. Louis County Jail on $150,000 bail on the witness tampering charges.