The fate of Steven Bernard Radke, the 39-year-old Emily man accused of murdering his father-in-law in June of 2007, is now in the hands of a jury of nine women and three men.
Juror deliberations started about noon Thursday, following closing arguments from Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan and Radke's attorney, Gary Bryant-Wolf.
Radke is charged with first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree murder with intent but without premeditation for the June 20, 2007, shooting death of Darrell Buesgens at Buesgens' rural Emily home.
There was no dispute between Ryan and Bryant-Wolf that Radke shot and killed Darrell Buesgens. There was, however, differing arguments about what led up to the shooting and whether it was premeditated or an act of self-defense.
In his closing argument, Ryan said Radke and his wife at the time, Melanie Buesgens, had a rocky relationship and that she often left him to stay with her parents.
In a June 20 phone call before Darrell Buesgens' murder, Melanie Buesgens tells Radke that she is getting a divorce. He goes back home looking for sympathy from a friend but finds none.
Instead, Ryan said Radke snuck a .308-caliber rifle out of his bedroom window, got on his four-wheeler and drove it to Buesgens property. Once there he hides the four-wheeler, walks through the woods and takes a hidden position outside of Darrell Buesgens' home.
Ryan said Radke fired a warning shot. When Darrell Buesgens came out of his house to investigate, Radke shot him twice - once in the right arm and once in the face.
Ryan closed his arguments with an audio tape of Radke responding to a question from law enforcement by saying, "He'll never get away with it though because I planned it and I murdered him."
Ryan said, "It was premeditated. In other words, he planned it, he knew what he was doing. The defendant considered, planned, prepared for and determined to commit the act before he committed it."
Bryant-Wolf disagreed, saying the short audio clip was taken out of context. He said Radke told officers that no one else was involved because he wanted to protect his wife.
Bryant-Wolf said Melanie Buesgens invited Radke to the house that day and Radke hid his four-wheeler and brought a rifle because he feared Darrell Buesgens, with whom he had a poor relationship.
It was Melanie Buesgens that told Radke to hide when her father came home, Bryant-Wolf said. The first shot fired by Radke, what Ryan called the warning shot, was fired accidentally, Bryant-Wolf said.
When Darrell Buesgens came out of the house with a shotgun Radke believed his life was in danger, Bryant-Wolf said, and Radke shot Darrell Buesgens in self-defense.
Whereas Ryan described Radke as a predator, Bryant-Wolf said his client was a rabbit, harmless, impassive and always doing what he was told, such as coming to Darrell Buesgens' house as instructed by his wife.
"Mr. Radke did not induce anything. He was invited to the property, told to go hide and misfired the gun," Bryant-Wolf said. "He ran away and was hiding like the rabbit he is. He's not the wolf he's the rabbit. He did not intend to assault anybody, he didn't induce the assault he used self-defense."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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