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Four bound for trial in Cisneros murder case

After more than six hours of a preliminary hearing, Judicial Referee David Vigeland ruled Monday there is probable cause to believe both that Jennifer Blue, Vincent Gladue and Thomas Begg conspired to burglarize the home of Ruben Cisneros Jr. and that they therefore murdered him because he was stabbed to death during the burglary.

It means not that they are guilty of the charges against them but that the case is worth trying, at which point the burden of proof will be the much higher standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” Vigeland said in setting their arraignments.

Joe Saucedo, the man said by investigators to have stabbed Cisneros 11 times Nov. 17, also will be arraigned with Blue, Gladue and Begg Tuesdaywhen they can enter formal pleas to the burglary charge and murder charge, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Prosecutor Carmell Mattison argued that because Blue, Begg and Gladue conspired to burglarize Cisneros’ home, they also are guilty of his murder although she alleges Saucedo is the only one who wielded a knife.

But attorneys for Blue, Begg and Gladue argued they only were on a mission to retrieve Blue’s possessions from her own home, where she had lived with her ex-boyfriend Cisneros, so no burglary, much less a murder, should attach to them.

Vigeland told the courtroom it was “an interesting and complicated case,” but that the basic standard of probable cause had been met.

Preliminary hearings are unusual and defendants typically waive their rights to one, as Saucedo did. This one included testimony from two investigators Friday and Monday in state district court in Grand Forks and impassioned arguments from defense attorneys Blake Hankey, Ted Sandberg and Rhiannon Goreham.

It’s nearly unheard of for a defendant to succeed at a preliminary hearing and see charges dismissed, because of the minimal proof needed for the prosecution to show probable cause, court officials say.