Woman pleads to first-degree assault in shootingCloquet’s Marie Margaret Majerle admitted to shooting her estranged husband in the sauna, but said she only did it to wound him because she was certain her ex-husband — with whom she had reunited — would kill him.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Cloquet’s Marie Margaret Majerle admitted to shooting her estranged husband in the sauna, but said she only did it to wound him because she was certain her ex-husband — with whom she had reunited — would kill him.
In a plea agreement in Carlton County Court Friday, Majerle, 36, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in the Jan. 6 shooting of Richard Majerle. As part of the plea, previous charges of attempted first-degree murder and removing or altering a serial number on a firearm were dismissed.
“That wasn’t her doing,” said Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler, referring to allegations that Majerle’s ex-husband, John Edwin Bemis III, 38, actually filed the numbers off.
Marie Majerle also agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in its case against Bemis, who was charged June 26 with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and aiding and abetting first-degree assault. The charges against Bemis came after he was missing for more than six months — and wanted by police for questioning and for abandoning his daughter — and eventually picked up by law enforcement in Reno, Nev., on June 14.
According to the criminal complaint, Marie Majerle told detectives that Bemis suggested the day before the shooting that they make arrangements to shoot Richard Majerle. Bemis tried to convince her that her husband was the source of her troubles and the obstacle to her desire to leave the state and get back together with Bemis.
In admitting to the crime under questioning by Pertler, Marie Majerle said she wasn’t thinking clearly and was deeply depressed when she shot her husband. She said she was following Bemis’ direction.
“He said, ‘I’ll show you how to do this.’ … He showed me each and every step” from how to load the rifle to how to shoot it, the defendant said. She said she had no hunting experience or any other experience with a firearm.
Pertler also questioned Marie Majerle about a trip to Duluth with Bemis, their daughter and her two children (from her marriage to Richard Majerle) the day before the shooting. According to the complaint, while Majerle and the children shopped at the mall, Bemis left them and went to the Super Wal-Mart Center in Hermantown where he purchased .22 caliber ammunition before returning to the mall.
Back at the residence, Bemis allegedly continued the conspiracy by showing Marie Majerle how to load and unload the rifle, and showed her that it was a semi-automatic rifle and could be fired more than one time by simply pulling the trigger.
She said he placed the rifle in her vehicle to be used later that evening or the next morning after her assault on Richard Majerle and advised her where to discard the rifle after the shooting and to take a change of clothes so she could burn the ones she was wearing after the shooting.
Police corroborated Majerle’s information with help from a Wal-Mart video showing Bemis purchasing the ammunition found in Marie Majerle’s car after the
“Why did you do it?” Pertler asked about the
“To be honest, I don’t know,” Marie Majerle said. “If you told me now to go kick someone, I wouldn’t do it. I’m 36. To this day, I’ve never said ‘no’ to my dad. It was like something I had to do.”
More than once during the hearing, Marie Majerle referred to her mental state at the time of the shooting.
“I can’t explain my frame of mind,” she said, explaining that she would sometimes lie on the couch after the kids left for school and cry for hours. “I had taken a turn for the worse in the two months before.”
Richard Majerle was shot between the neck and shoulder, near the clavicle. Although he was hospitalized in serious condition initially, he recovered and was released in a matter of days.
In court Friday, Marie Majerle initially stated that she accidentally shot her estranged husband.
“He flinched, I flinched and the gun went off,” she told the court.
“I’m not going to split hairs,” Pertler responded. “You shot him.”
Majerle said yes.
“You didn’t shoot him more than once,” Pertler said, proceeding with his questioning. “Why not again?”
“Because he was hurt,” she said. “I didn’t want him to be hurt.”
Chief Public Defender Fred Friedman stressed that the defendant did not pull the trigger again, despite the fact that there were a number of bullets in the gun.
Marie Majerle said she had decided she couldn’t shoot her estranged husband before she went there.
“I guess I was in love with both of them,” she said, referring to Richard Majerle and Bemis.
Friedman said that he believes, under terms of the plea agreement, Marie Majerle would serve a 117-month prison sentence, or 9¾ years. A sentencing date for Majerle will be set after Bemis’ case has been resolved. In the interim, Judge Robert Macaulay committed the defendant to the Shakopee Correctional Facility for women with the condition that she could return to Carlton County for child custody hearings and to testify in the Bemis case.
Bemis is no longer in custody at Carlton County Jail, the Pine Journal learned Wednesday. Jail officials said he met the terms for a combination of bail and conditional release. He was released after posting $18,000 bond and agreeing to GPS monitoring. His next hearing is set for July 10.
Forum Communications Mark Stodghill contributed to this story.