WALKER -- Cass County Judge Michael J. Haas said June 29 he expects the murder case against Michael Richard Ebinger, 31, Elk River, to reach a conclusion within 60 days.
Ebinger is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one each of second-degree murder and first-degree arson in connection with the Dec. 4, 1999, death of Carrie Nagel, 92, Hackensack.
A Cass County grand jury handed down those indictments in February. Before the grand jury indictments, Ebinger was arraigned in January only on second-degree murder.
Donovan Dearstyne and Jay Sommer, defense attorneys in the case, and Cass County Attorney Earl Maus presented evidence before Judge Haas at a June 29 omnibus hearing in Cass County Court.
The defense attorneys have until July 17 to present any written reasons they believe the case against Ebinger cannot be tried. Maus will have a week following that to respond in writing.
Judge Haas, by law, would have up to 90 days to evaluate the evidence before deciding whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with the case. He indicated following the June hearing he plans to make a decision much more promptly.
If he finds the case should proceed, a plea hearing would have to be set. If Ebinger pleads not guilty, a pretrial hearing would be scheduled before a trial.
Haas on June 29 set a tentative Aug. 16 trial date, should the case go to jury. The trial is expected to run about three weeks, according to court records.
Nagel was found dead in her rural Hackensack home. The house was filled with smoke.
Cass County Medical Examiner Michael McGee found Nagel died "from multiple traumatic injuries due to blunt instrument trauma," according to the complaint against Ebinger.
Ebinger's vehicle was found near the house. A trail of blood, burned flesh, cash and items from Nagel's home were found between her house and the car.
The defendant sustained severe burns the same date as Nagel died.
Ebinger has been held in lieu of $1.5 million at the state men's correctional facility at Rush City, because that facility has more cost effective care services for a burn victim than Cass County Jail.
Cost for his for his boarding and care there is $300 per day. By state statue, the county pays that cost until the case is resolved.
Should Ebinger pleaded guilty or be found guilty by a jury, costs for his care would shift to the state upon his sentencing to a state facility.
Should he be found not guilty, expenses for his care would become his own.
In April, Judge Haas ruled the prosecution and defense would split transportation costs to and from Rush City for court appearances.
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