Schleicher guilty; Court ruling to delay case

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 12, 2002

An Ellendale man was found guilty of murder in Steele County District Court Wednesday for shooting his friend to death. The trial will continue to examine the second plea: Not guilty by mental deficiency. But a Minnesota Supreme Court opinion issued Thursday may delay the schedule.

Judge William A. Johnson ruled that Roger Lindbo Schleicher, 49, of 6949 SW 102nd Ave. in Ellendale, is guilty of first-degree murder for killing Jack Johannsen, 53, of Waseca in his residence Dec. 29, 2000.

In the verdict, Judge Johnson found Schleicher’s act was premeditated to kill Johannsen. &uot;He reloaded his gun after firing five times into Mr. Johannsen’s trunk, and then shot him a sixth time in the head with the intent of ‘putting him out of his misery,’&uot; the judge wrote.

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According to the criminal complaint, Schleicher called 9-1-1 after the shooting. The Steele County Sheriff and deputies dispatched found Johannsen dead in the kitchen. Schleicher was handcuffed at the scene.

&uot;This case has a lot of twists,&uot; Steele County Attorney Douglas Ruth explained.

One of them is the entry of a second plea.

In April last year, the district court had a hearing to assess Schleicher’s competence and found him mentally ill and incompetent. Several months later, the court reversed the decision based on a new psychological evaluation.

Prior to the shooting, Schleicher was taken to the St. Peter Security Hospital on Jan 18, 2000 and committed as mentally ill and dangerous, and chemically dependent. He was discharged on June 12, 2000.

Now, his eligibility for public defender service is in question.

The supreme court reversed the district-court decision to allow Schleicher to have a public defender and asked to review the amount of his liquid assets.

Initially, Schleicher refused to have any counsel. The court appointed a public defender, recognizing that he was not capable of waiving his right to counsel due to his mental illness.

The State Public Defender filed a petition, arguing that Schleicher is financially able to obtain counsel.

According to the Supreme Court opinion, Schleicher owned the house that valued around $100,000. But he gave away the property to his son to prevent the state from taking it as compensation for the cost of his care.

The justices sent the case back to district court on Thursday with an order for the judge to consider Roger Schleicher’s $100,000 Ellendale home, 1997 Chevy Tahoe and monthly disability checks before allowing him a public defender.

The State Public Defender’s Office asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to remove the office from the case because Schleicher’s assets made him ineligible for free or low-cost representation.

The Supreme Court overturned an appellate court’s denial of the request. In the high court’s written opinion, justices bemoaned the fact that state funding for the Board of Public Defense has been outpaced by an increasing caseload, leaving the office financially strapped.

&uot;It is out of this concern … that we must jealously guard the resources of the (State Public Defender), and not provide counsel to those who are able to afford an attorney,&uot; they wrote.

Ruth said the second phase of trial scheduled to start July 17 will be delayed to resolve the legal representation issue.

Schleicher had removed Steele County Judge Casey Christian and Judge Johnson of Rice County was appointed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.