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Duluth man pleads guilty to murder of Floodwood woman

Michael William Siewert

An alleged member of the Native Mob dispassionately testified Tuesday that he hit a Floodwood woman in the head with a hammer and then strangled her because he was angry and snapped when he found some of his drugs were missing.

Michael William Siewert, 23, of Duluth pleaded guilty in State District Court in Carlton to intentional second-degree murder in the slaying of Cristyna Leah Watson, 25, in September.

Judge Dale Wolf asked Siewert if he had anything to say before being sentenced.

With the victim's mother, sister and other relatives and friends looking on, Siewert said no. He had nothing to say.

"He deserves a lot more than what he got," the victim's sister, Candace Watson, 27, of Floodwood said after the hearing. She said her sister was "very outgoing, very loving."

"She was always helping with what she could," Watson said. "Her dream was to be a cosmetologist. She would always do the kids' hair for their dances at school and for the pictures during the school year."

Watson said her sister had a drug problem that she was trying to beat.

"I know she was into it, but she was trying to clean up and he just kept sucking her in," she said. "She was not a person that easily says no."

Siewert also pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in a separate case in which he shot a man in the foot. Wolf asked if the man Siewert shot was a member of his gang or a rival gang. Siewert said the man he shot was a friend.

Siewert has been in custody since Oct. 4 in connection with the shooting of the man on the Fond du Lac Reservation in August as punishment for "certain gang-related activity."

Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler, who prosecuted both cases, asked Siewert if he thought the man he shot deserved to be shot. Siewert said yes. After the hearing, Pertler said the man Siewert shot was a member of the Native Mob and there is an active warrant out for his arrest in an unrelated incident.

The murder plea agreement was reached after Pertler told Siewert's attorney that he was considering convening a grand jury to seek a first-degree murder indictment. If convicted of first-degree murder, Siewert would have received a life prison sentence.

"I did tell his attorney that this would be the time to seriously consider pleading guilty to what the defendant was charged with -- before the nuclear option (first-degree murder indictment) is on the table," Pertler said.

If Siewert follows the rules while in prison he will be released after serving 20 years of the 30-year sentence. The 54-month sentence he received for pleading guilty to the assault with the firearm will be served at the same time as the murder sentence.

Siewert admitted to killing Watson early in the morning of Sept. 10 and burying her body. The victim was found on top of the ground, tucked under a deadfall with branches, vegetation and moss over her. With the help of cadaver dogs, the woman's body was found at a residence where Siewert had been staying.

According to the criminal complaint, Cloquet police were investigating drug trafficking on Oct. 2 when Alyssa Rae Peterson, Siewert's girlfriend at the time, said she had information regarding Native Mob gang activity and the disposal of Watson's body at 213 Reservation Road, where Clifford James Thompson lived.

Peterson pleaded guilty on April 10 to aiding an offender-accomplice after the fact and is awaiting sentencing. Thompson also is charged with aiding an offender-accomplice after the fact. His case hasn't been resolved.

Siewert is accused of taking Watson's cell phone and her 2005 gray Pontiac Grand Prix, driving it to the Twin Cities and selling it to someone in exchange for methamphetamine. A search warrant filed in the case says Peterson told investigators that Siewert traded Watson's car to a woman in the Twin Cities for 2 ounces of methamphetamine.

According to the complaint, Peterson told investigators that she helped Siewert conceal evidence of Watson's killing and helped him avoid being apprehended by law enforcement officials. Peterson confirmed she had been in Watson's vehicle and in possession of Watson's cell phone after she was killed. The complaint alleges that Peterson knew Watson had been killed by Siewert.