Christopher Besser, the St. Michael man accused of gunning down his father and brother at their St. Michael home over Mother’s Day weekend, entered a guilty plea in Wright County District Court Tuesday, Dec. 22, providing an ending to one of the year’s most tragic stories.
Christopher Besser pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder, avoiding a jury trial after the grand jury had granted two counts of first degree murder to Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly in the case. Besser admitted to police on the day of the killings, May 9, that he “just lost it,” and killed his brother after killing his father because he “didn’t want any witnesses.
Christopher Besser used a 30/30 rifle to gun down his father and brother Saturday, May 9 on a night that shook three communities.
Christopher Besser and his brother, Blake, 29, had a “strained” relationship, Kelly said in his statement to media back in May. Wright County Lt. Sean Deringer and Capt. Todd Hoffman confirmed police had been called to the house in the 4500 block of Mayfield Avenue Northeast a “couple of times” before the shootings in May, once for a suicide attempt. Authorities would not comment on which of the three brothers (the third Besser brother, Derek, was overseas serving in the military and not involved in this incident) was threatening to take his own life.
Christopher Besser and his father, Todd, argued Saturday night prior to the killings, according to Kelly’s statement and the criminal complaint filed in court. Kelly said shortly after the argument – which happened between Besser’s arrival at 6:30 p.m. and the 911 call by Blake at 7:06 p.m., Chris went to the gun cabinet and pulled out a rifle commonly used in deer hunting. Christopher loaded three rounds into the rifle.
Christopher went downstairs and found his father working on his computer. He fired one round, and killed his father “instantly.”
“His firearm was in its holster,” Deringer told media.
Christopher then went back upstairs, Kelly said, and sat at the kitchen table with the “rifle between his legs.” He knew his brother, Blake, was still at the home. Blake entered the home from a garage door into the kitchen area, and Christopher shot him in the lower chest/upper abdomen.
Blake was able to place a 911 call after he was shot, the complaint states. As he spoke, he dropped the phone, moaned, and fell to the ground. He was found by deputies at the scene, deceased.
Christopher, who did have alcohol in his system at the time, drove his car from the home and eventually wound up at the Kwik Stop in Monticello, where he asked to use a phone. “I ended up killing my father and brother,” he told the dispatcher. “I just lost it.”
During the conversation with the 911 dispatcher at the Wright County Communications Center, Christopher Besser told her that he and his father “just didn’t get along,” and that his father expected things from him, the complaint said. He told the dispatcher he had left the murder weapon at the house in St. Michael.
He was arrested at around 8 p.m. without incident, less than an hour after the shootings, the complaint states.
During transport to the Wright County Jail, Christopher asked if his brother, Blake, survived the shooting. “I’m guessing not” he said, according to the complaint. “I sympathize with the fact that I did that.”
Memorial services for Officer Todd Besser and Blake Besser were held for Sunday, May 17 at Elk River High School. Elk River residents lined the streets along School Avenue for the funeral procession.
Kelly said in May he would push for first degree charges back when the case was presented, but the longtime county attorney often works closely with victims’ families when arranging a guilty plea in these cases.
Sentencing for Christopher Besser will be held Friday, Feb. 5 in Wright County District Court. Second degree murder charges carry a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, under a Minnesota state law.