The last of three Cass Lake teens charged in the Nov. 29, 2002, beating death of a Cass Lake blind man pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree intentional murder in Cass County District Court in Walker.
Cass County Attorney Earl Maus said Jesse Tapio, 18, admitted his involvement in the beating death of 38-year-old Darrell Louis Bisson before Cass County District Judge John Solien.
A pre-sentencing investigation was ordered and a sentencing date was set for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 2 in Cass County District Court in Walker.
Maus said the county attorney's office plans to ask the court for the maximum prison sentence for Tapio. He said the state sentencing guidelines for this plea call for about 25 years in prison.
"This is a positive thing," said Maus, about Tapio's plea Friday. "He has a right to plead guilty and that's what he did."
George Allen Raphael Boswell, 18, Cass Lake, was sentenced Tuesday to 17 years in prison with credit for nearly two years served for aiding and abetting second-degree murder for his involvement in the fatal beating. After prison, Boswell will serve a minimum of eight and a half years on supervised release.
Darryl Jackson Johnson, 19, Cass Lake, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced earlier to a minimum of 40 months in prison.
Bisson, who was legally blind, was walking his dog about 11:15 p.m. Nov. 29, 2002, along Second Street in Cass Lake when he was assaulted by the three teens. Bisson died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head.
During his trial, Boswell maintained that Bisson remained on his feet until after he left Tapio with the victim and fled from the scene. The state's account of the events that night during Boswell's trial concluded that Boswell, Tapio, Johnson and others had been drinking liquor, smoking marijuana and snorting cocaine. The group of teens visited several residences looking for more alcohol. Eventually they took a walk, spotted Bisson, starting yelling and cursing at him and then chased him.
Bisson had an ax handle, used as a walking stick, with him. He tried to swing it at his attackers but the group attacked him. Tapio got hold of the ax and, according to Cass County Assistant Attorney Christopher Standlie, he hit Bisson in the head with it. Witnesses testified at Boswell's trial that they saw Tapio repeatedly clubbing Bisson with the ax handle.
"I would have liked to have seen him found guilty by a jury," said Bisson's sister, RoxAnn Gendron, Cass Lake. "Louie was sentenced to life and these boys are getting off easy. ... This was brutal. (There were footprints) on my brother's face. I don't know how (Tapio) can get away with just 25 years. It's not right."
Gendron said she and her family were hoping for a longer sentence. She was joined by about 12 family members at Tapio's court appearance Friday. She said she plans to attend his Sept. 2 sentencing hearing and provide a victim impact statement.
For her and her family, there is no such thing as closure in this case.
"There's never closure for this kind of crime," said Gendron. "I have to live every day and every night knowing that they took my brother this way. They senselessly chased him down and beat him to death on the street in the town I live in. How do you find closure to this? As long as these boys are breathing free air, there is no closure."
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.