A judge on Wednesday kept bail at $1 million for the Cloquet man indicted last week in the March killings of his pregnant girlfriend and her young son.

Sheldon James Thompson, 33, was arraigned on five counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder in deaths of 27-year-old Jackie Ann Defoe, her 20-month-old child, Kevin Shabaiash Jr., and the couple's unborn child.

Thompson has been in custody since March, but he now faces the potential of spending the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Erin Eldridge asked Judge Jill Eichenwald for a substantial bail increase during the virtual hearing in State District Court.

"Given the severity of the new charges and continued concerns — clearly, we've got some of the most serious charges in the state of Minnesota — we're asking that unconditional bail be raised to $10 million," the prosecutor said.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Defense attorney Kassius Benson argued the indictment was based on the same facts alleged in the original complaint, noting Thompson has remained in custody as he faces a potential decadeslong incarceration.

"Right now, bail is at $1 million, and that is something Mr. Thompson really can't post," Benson said. "Anything more is, quite frankly, just for show."

Eichenwald said she found the original figure to be sufficient, adding that the issue appears "relatively moot" due to the defendant's inability to pay.

"Clearly, the charges are more serious or more significant," the judge said. "However, the punishment in either case was an extremely lengthy amount of time in prison."

Victoria Smith holds a picture of homicide victims Jackie DeFoe and her son, Kevin Shabaiash Jr., at a memorial march on the Fond du Lac Reservation in March 2020. (File / News Tribune)
Victoria Smith holds a picture of homicide victims Jackie DeFoe and her son, Kevin Shabaiash Jr., at a memorial march on the Fond du Lac Reservation in March 2020. (File / News Tribune)

The Carlton County grand jury on Thursday, Oct. 8, indicted Thompson on five counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder.

The indictment includes three counts of premeditated murder, which carries mandatory life in prison without parole, and two counts of murder while committing domestic abuse with a past pattern of domestic abuse, which carries life with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

Authorities said the victims' bodies were discovered March 7 after a "concerned citizen" told police that Thompson made statements indicating he had killed Defoe and her child.

Officers found the victims' bodies in separate bedrooms at the residence, 1620 Locke Lane, on the Fond du Lac Reservation. They were concealed under blankets and clothing, and both doors had been screwed shut, according to court documents. Defoe, who was 13 weeks pregnant, had been stabbed several dozen times, while Kevin died from blunt force injuries, an autopsy found.

Police said the investigation led to "a number of witnesses" who reported that Thompson had told them that he killed the mother and son.

Prosecutors previously indicated they would seek a longer-than-guideline sentence for Thompson if he is convicted, saying the victims were "particularly vulnerable" and were treated with "particular cruelty," among other aggravating factors. They also cited several past instances in which Thompson had allegedly hit or threatened the victims.

But Benson in August asserted that his client was innocent, requesting that the original second-degree murder charges be dropped. The defense attorney said Thompson had "no motive" to kill either victim and was "looking forward to having a child" with Defoe. He also indicated there was a lack of physical or forensic evidence tying the defendant to the crime, and said witness statements were unreliable.

Thompson had been scheduled to face a contested hearing Oct. 28 on his motion to dismiss the case for a lack of probable cause. Attorneys indicated that issue will remain on hold until the defense has an opportunity to receive and review the grand jury transcript.