Accomplice testifies against alleged killers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 31, 2001


Thursday, May 31, 2001

HASTINGS, Minn. – After three St. Paul roofers were shot in an Austin motel last summer, Vernon Powers, Scott and David Christian and their associates returned to St. Paul, where they had breakfast and allegedly tried to hatch a plan for escape. But they were apprehended by St. Paul police shortly after, according to witness testimony.

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Witness Jenea Weinand, 19, was part of the robbery, and testified against Powers and the Christian brothers Wednesday during the second day of the murder trial, which was moved from Mower County to Hastings because of intense media coverage in the Austin area.

Weinand and two other women engaged in prostitution in Austin last June to earn money they allegedly owed the defendants, she said.

Weinand and the other women prostituted themselves at a local truck stop, apartment and at the downtown hotel, she said. The defendants also told the girls to keep an eye out for anyone with a lot of money, so the group could rob them, she said.

&uot;One of the (customers), I don’t remember which one, told us which room they were staying in, and said they’d be back after work the next day,&uot; she said. &uot;He pulled a red bandanna out of his pocket, and pulled out a $100 bill and said he needed change.&uot;

&uot;It seemed like he had a wad of money in there,&uot; she said. &uot;When they left I told (the other girls) we should tell Scott and Vernon about the guy. So we can all rob the guy so we can get the money and go home.&uot;

All three defendants were in on the planning, Weinand said. She was to get the roofers in room 28 to open the door. Powers and Scott Christian would hold them up using guns they had brought. David Christian would drive.

Weinand said she didn’t see what happened in the room, but heard a man yelling and guns firing. Then Scott Christian and Powers got back in the truck.

After detouring to avoid the Austin police station and getting lost in Iowa, the group returned to Weinand’s house early Friday morning, she told the court. Weinand made breakfast and washed clothes worn in the incident. One woman called her father for a ride home. Scott Christian took another woman to get a fake ID so the group could flee, she said.

&uot;They said we were either going to go to Michigan or Kansas or something,&uot; she said. &uot;They said we were all going to stick together so we wouldn’t get caught.&uot;

Then Powers’ girlfriend called and told the group to turn on the TV news. The police were talking about the murders in the Downtown Motel, and had the license plate number for Powers’ truck, Weinand said

&uot;We need to figure out a story, that we weren’t down there, if the police came looking for us,&uot; she said.

But St. Paul police arrived at Weinand’s apartment shortly after, she said. Weinand, Powers and Scott Christian were taken into custody.

Defense attorneys tore into Weinand’s testimony, saying she has repeatedly lied to police, underplaying her own involvement in the murders.

In police interviews, Weinand lied about nearly every part of the crime and who was involved, attorneys said.

Two weeks ago, Weinand pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, aiding and abetting murder and one count of first-degree assault. Her plea agreement with prosecutors depends on her truthful testimony in court, but she still faces roughly 30 years in prison for her role in the murders.

&uot;What you didn’t tell this jury is part of this bargain you got four charges of first-degree murder dismissed,&uot; said Scott Christian’s attorney, Rick Smith.

&uot;I didn’t pull the trigger,&uot; she said.

Weinand will continue her testimony Thursday.