Survivor of Waseca murders testifies

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hilary Kruger was sleeping when she heard gunfire, and woke up to a pain in her left arm.

Minutes later, Kruger testified, she watched as her husband and son died of gunshot wounds.

Kruger, the only survivor of the February 2007 shooting at her family’s farmhouse near Waseca, took the stand Tuesday in the murder trial of Michael Zabawa, charged with killing Tracy and Alec Kruger. He has plead not guilty. The trial was moved to Rochester because of concern it would be tainted by publicity.

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Hilary Kruger, who wore a black blouse that showed where her left arm was amputated below the elbow after the gunshot wound, testified for two hours.

Hilary Kruger testified about the sequence of events, starting when she woke to the sound of gunshots. She said her husband tried to pull the mattress up to protect them, only to be shot again. He fell to the floor, she said, and “he was not responding in any way and I could see his face was speckled.”

Kruger shouted for son Alec, 13, to call 911 and tell the dispatcher there was an intruder in the house. “Then somebody came upstairs and shot Alec,” Kruger testified.

She said she could not identify the shooter because it was dark, saying she only saw the silhouette of a tall, thin person wearing a winter hat and holding “a long gun like a rifle or a shotgun.”

After Kruger testified, jurors heard a tape of Alec’s 911 call saying there was an intruder and that his parents had been shot. The dispatcher testified she then heard a loud bang and the line went dead.

A trauma surgeon at North Memorial Hospital testified that he didn’t believe Tracy Kruger would live through her operation.

The day ended with testimony from Waseca Police Officer Timothy Schroeder, who said he drove at speeds of nearly 100 mph to get to the Kruger home about 10 minutes outside Waseca. Arriving there, officers took precautions entering the house, not sure if the shooter was still nearby.

Once inside, Schroeder, gun drawn, yelled “police” and asked if anyone was there. There was no response. He went into another room and called out again.

That time, he said he heard a woman’s faint voice: “Up here.”

A group of officers raced up the stairs. They found Tracy Kruger dead on the floor and Alec Kruger dead on the bed. Hilary Kruger was on the bed next to her son.

“I knew she was alive from her response,” Schroeder said. “But she looked dead.”