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Defense attorney argues that woman wasn't trying to kill her husband when she shot him

The defense attorney for a Cloquet woman charged with trying to murder her husband as he sat in the sauna argued Thursday that the charges against his client were overblown.

The defense attorney for a Cloquet woman charged with trying to murder her husband as he sat in the sauna argued Thursday that the charges against his client were overblown.

Marie Margaret Majerle, 36, is accused of going to the Cloquet home of her estranged husband, Richard Alan Majerle, 38, on Jan. 6 and shooting him in the neck and shoulder area with a semi-automatic rifle. Richard Majerle was hospitalized in serious condition at Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center after the incident but was released within a few days.

Marie Majerle is charged with attempted murder in the first degree and with removing or altering a serial number on a firearm. She has pleaded not guilty.

Marie Majerle's attorney, Fred Friedman, chief public defender of the Sixth Judicial District, did not dispute the fact that his client shot her husband.

"There's probable cause and then some that Ms. Majerle shot her husband in the shoulder," Friedman said. "One shot in the shoulder. There wasn't a second, or third, fourth or even 11th shot. I say '11th,' because the .22 rifle she used is not like the .22s we played with, where you drop a shell, close it, shoot and reload. This is a semi-automatic weapon that holds shells. There were 11 live rounds left in that rifle."

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He talked about what happened after the shooting.

"They have a conversation; he tells her to put the gun away; they call 911," Friedman said. "They hang around. She doesn't leave; she doesn't shoot him again. To charge attempted murder is (excessive) when she had every opportunity to continue to shoot, to fire, to kill. She was the only person on the scene with a weapon."

Thus, Friedman argued, probable cause for "attempted premeditated murder" does not exist.

Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler, who is prosecuting the case, said he considers premeditation "a fact."

"She goes and retrieves the gun," Pertler said. "If that's not premeditated, what is?"

As for why she didn't shoot her husband again, Pertler said he has a number of theories that he didn't want to discuss before trial.

"He flinches (when she raises the gun)," Pertler said. "If not, where would the bullet have gone? Between the eyes?"

According to the complaint, Richard Majerle told police on the way to the hospital that he had been in bed asleep when he heard a knock on the door about 3 a.m. and found his estranged wife at the door. He said she asked to come in and he allowed her in.

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The couple talked, and at some point decided to go to sleep. About 5 a.m., Marie Majerle asked Richard Majerle to start the sauna, which he agreed to do. Then she told him she needed to leave temporarily to get some medication.

Richard Majerle told police that his wife returned to the sauna after about five minutes, opened the door and raised a .22 rifle toward him. He flinched; at the same time, the complaint said, Marie Majerle shot her husband, wounding him in the upper-left chest area.

According to the complaint, Marie Majerle dropped the rifle but remained at the home as Richard Majerle searched for his cell phone and called 911. According the complaint, Marie Majerle took the phone away from him when he was making the call. Jail 911 tapes show there was an initial call from Richard Majerle and then a hang-up.

Investigators said they learned that Richard and Marie Majerle were either separated or in the process of being divorced and had exchanged text messages earlier that evening regarding their minor children. It was clear from those messages that the defendant was upset with the victim before going to his home, the criminal complaint said.

At Thursday's hearing, Friedman argued there is not probable cause to charge his client with removing the serial number from the rifle.

Friedman said evidence indicates that Majerle's ex-husband, John Edwin Bemis III, in whose home she'd been staying, was the one who filed the numbers off the gun. He cited a grinder, drill and metal shavings found in Bemis' basement.

"It's beyond obvious that number was shaved off by John Bemis," Friedman said. "And Mr. Bemis can't be found."

Bemis was reported missing by his family Jan. 9. Police have said Bemis is not a suspect in the case but is wanted for further questioning.

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Since his disappearance -- which occurred after police had searched his home the day after the shooting -- Pertler has filed a complaint of child neglect against Bemis for abandoning a minor daughter, and the Carlton County Sheriff's Office issued a nationwide warrant for his arrest.

"My suggestion is, if he (Bemis) is the guy that did the shaving, then they were thick as thieves," Pertler said. "He may have been assisting her. If it's not her (who filed the numbers off), then she knows about it and knows the gun isn't traceable."

Although the external serial numbers were removed from the gun, according to the criminal complaint, officers were able to find a concealed serial number after dismantling the weapon. On the morning of the shooting, officers also found a .22-caliber ammunition box in the front seat of Marie Majerle's car that matched the ammunition in the still-loaded gun.

Also at the hearing, Friedman complained to the court about the quality of three taped interviews between Cloquet police detectives and Majerle. Although the police questions are clear, Majerle's answers are "somewhere between barely audible and inaudible," he said.

"I'm bringing it up now because we shouldn't be battling about this during a trial," he said.

Judge Robert Macaulay said he would consider the attorneys' arguments after they are submitted in writing.

Related Topics: CLOQUETCRIME
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