The St. Michael resident who gunned down his father and brother the night before Mother’s Day has been sentenced to more than 60 years in prison.
The sentencing for Christopher Besser was held Friday, Feb. 5. Christopher pleaded guilty to shooting his father, Officer Todd Besser, and brother, Blake Besser, in Wright County District Court Tuesday, Dec. 22.
The 61-year sentence was settled by the Besser family and Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly. Christopher faced a maximum of 80 years in prison under the law – 40 for each conviction of second degree murder.
Christopher addressed the remaining members of his family, asking for forgiveness for his actions, at the sentencing Friday. At a funeral service at Elk River High School last spring, Todd Besser’s brother spoke to Christopher, who was then in jail, stating that the family did, indeed, forgive him for what he had done.
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.
Shooting Shakes Three Communities
Christopher Besser used a 30/30 rifle to gun down his father and brother Saturday, May 9, 2015, on a night that shook three communities.
Christopher Besser and his brother, Blake, 27,, had a “strained” relationship, Kelly said in his statement to media back in May 2015. 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 in St. Michael 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.”
“[Todd’s] 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.
The Besser family patriarch had just started a new life with his second wife in Otsego, where he resided. The boys rented the home in St. Michael from their father.
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.