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Jury finds Easter guilty of 2nd-degree murder, gun violation

Jury comes back with verdict after hours of deliberations

A jury found David Michael Easter guilty of second-degree murder Thursday afternoon in the shooting death of a rural Freeborn County man last summer.

Easter, of Brownsdale, was found guilty of intentionally killing Spencer Daniel Brown, 23, on Aug. 23, 2016, at Myre-Big Island State Park. Easter had claimed self-defense in the man’s death.

The jury deliberated for approximately eight hours Thursday before the verdict. The trial began last week. A sentencing date was not announced.

Brown’s mother, Denise Brown, said after the verdict that she was surprised.

David Easter

“I’m still in shock,” she said. “I can’t believe that they came back guilty. I don’t know what to think.

“Justice was served.”

She said her son’s six younger siblings will be able to portray his memory, and she described her son as a very sweet, caring man who loved the outdoors.

“He really loved his siblings, his family, his friends,” she said.

Denise Brown was thankful for the work Freeborn County Attorney David Walker did during the trial.

“I’m just grateful for him,” she said. “I’m grateful for the job he did.”

After the guilty verdict, Easter addressed the court, saying the state destroyed two families and that the Brown family would never know the true tragedy of what happened the night of Spencer Brown’s death. He offered his thoughts and prayers to the family.

David Easter’s wife, Karla Easter, was visibly upset after the verdict.

“I just want it known that we did not mean any harm to the (Brown family), and that in the end, the state ruined two lives instead of one,” she said.

Public defender Michael Ryan declined to comment after the verdict.

David Easter claimed he thought Spencer Brown was reaching for a firearm when he shot him in a locked 2001 Audi station wagon during testimony Wednesday. Authorities found a golf club in the area of Brown’s body. The testimony differed from the explanation Easter gave when he called 911 after the shooting. In the 911 audio played for the jury, Easter said he shot Brown after he stepped out with what looked like a bat. Neither a firearm nor a bat were found in Brown’s station wagon.

Brown’s ex-girlfriend, Lily Gjersvik, said she was pleased with the verdict.

“It was a victory for Spencer,” she said.

In the middle of deliberations, jurors asked to re-listen to audio of Easter’s 911 call he made to dispatchers shortly after the shooting and watch officer footage of the scene.

Easter was also found guilty Thursday of gross misdemeanor carrying or possessing a pistol without a permit in a public place. He had a Nebraska conceal and carry permit but did not have a valid Minnesota permit. He had been living in Minnesota since 2012.

Neal Gjersvik, the father of Brown’s ex-girlfriend, described the journey he faced after Brown’s shooting.

“The process was hell,” he said. “I learned investigators have got big hearts, and that the people that are involved with justice are not allowed to show their hearts, but they are working very hard and that through this whole process — when we got to the end of it, that’s when we got to see the justice department’s feelings. But at the beginning of it, it seemed like the justice was cold as ice, but (it is) finished. David Walker is our hero.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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