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Man accused of attempted murder in 'drug deal gone bad' sentenced on lesser charges

Matthew Little

CANDO, N.D. -- A Cando man accused of beating a man with an object after a “drug deal gone bad” was sentenced to about four years in prison after a plea deal reduced the attempted murder charges.

Matthew Paul Little, 39, entered an Alford plea Tuesday in Towner County District Court in a case in which he faced up to 85 years in prison. In exchange for the Alford plea -- which means he is not admitting guilt in the case but agrees prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him -- he received a five-year prison sentence. He will get credit for 333 days for time served.

The case stems from a Feb. 18 attack at the Cando Villa Apartments at 1302 Fifth Ave. Officers were called at 5 p.m. that day to the apartment building, where they found two injured men, according to court records. One victim, identified as Chris Lancaster, was flown to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks to be treated for multiple injuries, including bleeding in his brain. The second victim, Curtis Henry, was treated for neck and head injuries.

Lancaster said in court documents a “large Native American,” later identified as Little, beat Lancaster with what he thought was a bat. Henry told investigators he tried to break up the fight and was assaulted.

Investigators later found a broken wooden chair at the scene with blood found on parts of the broken wood, according to court documents.

Little, who also had blood on his clothing, called the incident “a drug deal gone bad,” according to court documents.

It doesn’t appear that either Henry or Lancaster face charges in the incident.

Little had been charged with two Class A felony counts of attempted murder, four Class B felonies -- two burglary charges and two robbery charges -- and a Class C felony criminal trespassing charge. Prosecutors reduced the charges to a Class C felony count of aggravated assault and two Class A misdemeanors -- theft of property and criminal trespassing.

The assault charge -- the most severe of the three -- carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.

Cando is about 30 miles northwest of Devils Lake.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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