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Charges: Hibbing man left girlfriend to die after assault

Timely medical attention could have saved Kari Petrich's life, a criminal complaint said, but Eric Jarvis allegedly spent hours cleaning up the crime scene before calling 911.

Eric James Jarvis.jpg
Eric James Jarvis
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HIBBING — A man allegedly admitted that he "probably fought" with his girlfriend, who was found dead in their Hibbing apartment early Tuesday.

Eric James Jarvis, 46, reportedly told police that he could not recall the circumstances of how Kari Jo Petrich, 43, suffered a head injury that resulted in severe bruising and blood loss. But a criminal complaint suggests he struck the victim with a blunt object, leaving her on the floor for up to 24 hours while he cleaned up the crime scene.

The mother of four and grandmother of two likely would have survived, a medical examiner said, had she received immediate attention after the assault.

Jarvis was arraigned Friday in State District Court in Hibbing on a charge of intentional second-degree murder. Judge Bhupesh Pattni set bail at $1 million.

The complaint states that Petrich previously expressed concerns that Jarvis would kill her, and St. Louis County prosecutor Tyler Kenefick said the allegations are "consistent with a pattern of domestic abuse." The state will likely pursue a first-degree murder indictment, which carries a mandatory life sentence if convicted.

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According to the complaint:

Police had been called to the Meadowview Apartments, 3505 Ninth Ave. W., twice on Sunday, finding Jarvis and Petrich "clearly intoxicated" and arguing but no signs of any physical altercation.

Jarvis reportedly wanted Petrich taken to detox and was heard calling her "useless" and other derogatory terms during at least one of the responses. Petrich told officers during the second call, around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, that Jarvis had struck her in the head and that she was bleeding. But officers said she had no observable injuries at that time, so they cleared the scene.

Jarvis next called police at 12:55 a.m. Tuesday to report that Petrich was unconscious and cold to the touch. Police arrived and found her on the living room floor, with the left side of her face severely bruised. There was a "significant blood stain" on the carpet next to her head and an apparent glass shard was found nearby.

"Officers were quickly able to observe that victim was deceased," the complaint states.

Police said it was also apparent that Petrich's body had been cleaned, though the hoodie she was wearing was soaked with blood.

Jarvis claimed to not know what happened to Petrich's face, but said they "probably fought." He allegedly added: "Hey, look, if I did bad s---, like really hurt her, if she's dead ..." before trailing off.

Police said Jarvis made multiple comments regarding his willingness to and expectation of going to jail, including extending his arms to be handcuffed after being informed that Petrich was dead.

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"My f---ing girlfriend is dead in the apartment, and I'm probably f---ed for that," he allegedly stated at one point.

In a statement taken after a Miranda warning, Jarvis claimed Petrich had the facial injuries since Saturday, that he didn't know where the marks came from and that "me and her fight all the time." In a second interview, he said he believed Petrich had been lying on the floor since Sunday afternoon without moving.

Police seized the dumpsters outside the apartment complex. In a trash bag that contained mail addressed to the victim, officers found a blood-stained vodka bottle; multiple wet wipes that had been used to clean up blood; a blood-stained sock; shattered pieces of a vase and pieces of a broken plate.

Police said the vase and plate were both visible and intact in body camera footage recorded inside the apartment Sunday. The unit also appeared to have been vacuumed since officers were last there.

While final autopsy results were still pending, the medical examiner determined that Petrich's death was caused by blunt head trauma that resulted in an internal brain bleed. The injuries were likely the result of being struck with an object or fist, the report said, and the victim's death could have been avoided with "timely medical intervention."

In speaking with Petrich's family, investigators learned she had been in a relationship for Jarvis for approximately nine months and lived together in the apartment. The family said they were both "heavy drinkers and that they had multiple altercations in the past," including an incident a few months ago in which Petrich suffered facial bruises.

"That resulted in a family member telling defendant to keep his hands off victim," the complaint states. "Family members later informed officers that victim sent a number of text messages to her ex-husband regarding her fear of defendant, sometime around June 13, 2022. Officers observed the screenshot of these messages, in which it appears victim stated twice that she believed defendant was going to kill her."

Court records show that Jarvis was charged with domestic assault in January after admitting to throwing a phone at Petrich during an argument. He ended up pleading guilty to an amended count of disorderly conduct.

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Jarvis had numerous convictions, including at least eight in burglary or theft cases, by 2000, according to court records. But he lacked any further record in Minnesota until earlier this year.

He is being held in the St. Louis County Jail, with his next court appearance set for Thursday.

Petrich grew up in the Kelly Lake area of Hibbing and spent much of her adult life working as a certified nursing assistant for Alzheimer's patients at assisted-living facilities, according to an obituary. The family described her as a "kind spirit who took joy in caring for people."

"Kari was always the loudest and happiest when she was with her family," the obit said. "She enjoyed gardening and yard work. She loved redoing her house pretty much every six months. She constantly had different colored walls and her furniture was moved regularly. Kari especially loved it when all of her children were at her house all at once for a visit. She loved having her grandchildren over, and watching them play with her dog."

This story was updated at 2:33 p.m. July 1 with additional details from court documents. It was originally posted at 11:28 a.m. July 1.

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Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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