PRESTON -- A Fillmore County jury found a 27-year-old father guilty of killing his 3-year-old son by suffocating him and leaving him in the cold to die last May.
Harold ''Howey'' Kramer, of Brownsville, was convicted Friday on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of child endangerment. But while jurors decided Kramer intended to kill his son, they apparently didn't think he planned the killing because they refused to find him guilty of first-degree premeditated murder.
Kramer was accused of taking his son, Kenny, from his bed on May 10, stuffing him in a plastic bag and leaving him in the woods to die as part of an effort to win back his estranged girlfriend.
Kramer hung his head as the verdicts were read; his parents, who were taking care of the boy when he disappeared, cried.
Judge Robert R. Benson set sentencing for April 17 in Caledonia. The case was moved to Fillmore County from Houston County because of extensive publicity.
Eight days after Kenny disappeared, police found the little boy's body -- still dressed in his red sleeper -- in a garbage bag. He was bound with duct tape to the base of a tree near the family's home in southeastern Minnesota.
The eight-woman, four-man jury got the case Wednesday, deliberating four hours that day and 12 hours on Thursday. The jurors resumed deliberations Friday morning, and the verdicts were read shortly after 6 p.m.
During the police investigation, Kramer confessed to the killing, but the defense contended the confession was coerced. At the trial, he testified that he did not kill his son.
His former girlfriend, Dawn Buroker, 21, testified she was engaged to Kramer in November 1998, but they later broke up. After Kenny disappeared, she said Kramer showed her a note he said he found on his car that said, ''If we don't start seeing you three as a family, we're going to start hurting your family, starting with the child.''
The prosecution contended that Kramer wrote the note to get her to reconcile.
But defense attorneys argued that Kramer was the victim of a drug deal gone bad and a sloppy investigation.
After the verdict, defense attorney Candace Rasmussen said she still believed he did not kill his son. ''Howey Kramer loved his son,'' she said.
The prosecution argued that Kramer provided police with facts only the killer would know.
Prosecutor William Klumpp of the state Attorney General's office said there was ''no good outcome'' in such a case. No matter what the verdict, he said, ''Kenny is not going to be there.''
Added Houston County Sheriff Mike Lee: ''Harold and Margaret Kramer -- Kenny's grandparents -- are very, very nice people. They lost a grandson. Now they are about to lose a son.''
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