CARLTON — A Cloquet man allegedly admitted to multiple people that he killed his pregnant girlfriend and her 20-month-old son, though a motive has not been publicly identified.
Sheldon James Thompson, 33, was arraigned Tuesday in State District Court on two counts of intentional second-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder of an unborn child.
Authorities said 27-year-old Jackie DeFoe was found dead Saturday inside her residence from stab wounds. Her son, Kevin, was pronounced dead from blunt-force trauma. An autopsy later revealed that DeFoe was 13 weeks pregnant at the time of her death.
A criminal complaint states that police were summoned to the residence, 1620 Locke Lane, on the Fond du Lac Reservation within the city of Cloquet to conduct a welfare check after a "concerned citizen" contacted authorities regarding a Friday conversation with Thompson.
"(Thompson) was acting unusual and, when asked what was the matter, made a statement indicating that he had killed (DeFoe), and made a gesture indicating strangulation," the complaint states. "Defendant also made a statement that he had killed the child."
On scene, officers from the Fond du Lac and Cloquet police departments observed damage to the house's front door and a knock was met with no response.
Police spoke with a Fond du Lac Housing Division employee who reported performing work at the residence Friday and finding it "in disarray, which was unusual," according to the complaint. The worker said both bedroom doors were closed and that he did not go inside.
After obtaining a search warrant, officers entered the house and found DeFoe dead inside a closet in one of the bedrooms. The complaint states that there were multiple "deep lacerations" on her body, including one to the front of her neck. Kevin was found dead in the other bedroom with bruises around the head.
The complaint states that Thompson was known to be in a relationship with DeFoe and intermittently resided in the house, but was not present at the scene. Officers initiated a search, eventually speaking with a woman who reported picking him up in Cloquet and driving him around before dropping him off along the side of a road.
Thompson himself called 911, providing a location and indicating a desire to turn himself in, the complaint states. But he was not present when police arrived.
An extensive search ensued with the assistance of numerous agencies, including a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter, before authorities arrested Thompson Sunday night in the woods near Mission Creek Road in Perch Lake Township.
Authorities said the investigation led to "a number of witnesses" who reported that Thompson had told them he killed DeFoe and Kevin.
Thompson was quiet when he appeared in court Tuesday, confirming his name and birth date and muttering "yeah" to a series of questions from Judge Rebekka Stumme, who appointed the public defender's office to represent him.
The judge granted Carlton County Attorney Lauri Ketola's request to set bail at $1 million and deny any referral for pretrial release. Defense attorney Joanna Wiegert argued for his release with supervision, saying Thompson is a lifelong resident of the area and has been cooperative with the court process.
But Stumme cited the serious nature of the charges, which each carry a maximum of 40 years in prison, and concerns for public safety in setting cash-only bail.
Thompson has multiple prior felony and misdemeanor assault convictions, including several cases involving domestic violence. He remains on probation in Minnesota for violating a domestic abuse no-contact order and is on supervised release in Wisconsin after serving a prison term in another domestic case.
His next court appearance was scheduled for Monday.
Around 80 community members, relatives and friends attended a walk and memorial for the victims Monday on the reservation. More than 4 in 5 indigenous women and men have experienced violence in their lifetimes, and 1 in 3 experienced violence in the past year, according to a 2016 report from the National Institute of Justice.
This story was updated at 1:42 p.m. March 10 with additional information from the criminal complaint and court appearance. It was originally posted at 11:30 a.m. March 10.