Second defendant in Cromwell murder case pleads guiltyCARLTON – Rachel Defoe testified Friday in Carlton County Court that she didn’t know anyone was going to be hurt, she didn’t hear the gunshots and her boyfriend didn’t immediately tell her that he cold-bloodedly shot a Cromwell couple to death in their home after robbing them, but she admitted she was involved.
By: Mark Stodghill, Pine Journal
CARLTON – Rachel Defoe testified Friday in Carlton County Court that she didn’t know anyone was going to be hurt, she didn’t hear the gunshots and her boyfriend didn’t immediately tell her that he cold-bloodedly shot a Cromwell couple to death in their home after robbing them, but she admitted she was involved.
The 26-year-old Cloquet woman and boyfriend Joshua Martineau went into hiding for nearly two months after the Jan. 9, 2011, slayings of Thomas Holm and his girlfriend, Kim Schmitz, before she and Martineau were arrested in Hennepin County.
Friday was scheduled to be a pretrial hearing in preparation for Defoe’s Oct. 1 trial for aiding and abetting first-degree murder. She made a trial unnecessary by accepting responsibility for being involved in the crimes and pleading guilty to a lesser charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Under terms of a plea agreement worked out between Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler and defense attorney Joanna Wiegert, Defoe will serve a prison sentence of between 21 and 23 years. She will be released after serving two-thirds of that time if she follows prison rules.
Co-defendant Martineau pleaded guilty in March to two counts of intentional second-degree murder for shooting the two 53-year-old victims in the back of the head. He received a 60-year prison sentence, 30 years for each murder.
Defoe wiped tears from her eyes after admitting to Judge Robert Macaulay that she was with Martineau and saw him remove firearms from the victims’ home. She admitted participating in the robbery, but never intended for anyone to be hurt.
Defoe’s mother and grandmother were in the gallery.
“She’s incredibly remorseful,” defense attorney Wiegert said of her client outside the courtroom after the hearing. “She wrote a statement that she’s asked me to deliver at sentencing where she apologizes. She says that her heart goes out to the victims’ families, that she never expected it to happen, and she wishes that it had never happened. She feels really bad for these families and she feels really bad for the impact that this is having on her family. She’s got a 5-year-old child.”
Macaulay directed an Arrowhead Regional Corrections probation officer to investigate Defoe’s background before sentencing on Sept. 21.
Prosecutor Pertler said after the hearing that there was no evidence that Defoe was directly involved in the shootings. He said that the aiding and abetting statute was tailored for crime roles such as Defoe’s. He hoped that the plea agreement would bring some peace to the victims’ families.
“For the sake of the family members of the victims, they can have some sense of this thing coming to a conclusion,” Pertler said after the hearing. “It’s been quite a while that they’ve been thinking about it on a daily basis.”
At his plea hearing, Martineau testified that he stole Holm’s guns and gave them to Defoe to hide. He said he didn’t tell Defoe that he shot the victims. He said he told her that he knocked them out and tied them up.
The cases against the defendants were built as a result of an investigation conducted by the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Investigators interviewed Martineau twice in the weeks after the slayings before he was arrested. During one of the interviews he agreed to provide a DNA sample.
Analysts with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension crime lab in Bemidji determined that other than Martineau, 99.99993 percent of the general population could be excluded from contributing the DNA found in blood smears and a cigarette butt at the crime scene. Arrest warrants for Martineau and Defoe were issued that day.
They were taken into custody without incident about 2 a.m. March 2, 2011, in Hennepin County by U.S. marshals and agents with the Minneapolis Fugitive Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.