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Man pleads not guilty to death following dispute about stolen PlayStation

The Gerald W. Heaney Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse is located in downtown Duluth. File photo / Forum News Service

DULUTH -- A Red Lake man pleaded not guilty Monday, Sept. 18, to charges that he fatally shot a 17-year-old boy following a dispute over a stolen PlayStation.

Joshua Francis Hill, 20, is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence in the June 24 death of Alexander Andrew Cadwell at an abandoned residence on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, Hill stood before Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois to enter the not guilty pleas at his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Duluth.

Cadwell’s body was found by the Red Lake Police Department on June 25 in an abandoned trailer east of a home in Red Lake, according to a criminal complaint. Officers found the victim’s body on the ground under a wooden porch and saw blood on his clothing. The boy was unresponsive and cold to the touch, the complaint says.

Police said Cadwell had left his home on the afternoon of June 24 and that a gunshot was heard a short time later. An investigation allegedly revealed that Hill was upset with the victim for “snitching” on him and threatened to “smoke him” after an incident involving a stolen gaming console.

A trial date has not been scheduled, but Brisbois on Monday heard arguments and testimony on several defense motions related to evidentiary issues.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford Wardlaw told the judge that forensic evidence has been sent to the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Va., with reports not expected back until next month. He said the agency will conduct an examination of the rifle suspected to be used in the killing, as well as testing for potential DNA and fingerprints.

Meanwhile, defense attorney Robert Richman filed a motion seeking to suppress any evidence seized from a search of a 2002 Chrysler Town & Country minivan. Hill allegedly stored the murder weapon in the van before and after the shooting, though it was ultimately recovered along a rural reservation road five days after the shooting.

Hill’s adopted mother, Gladys Saragosa, testified at the hearing that she was the registered owner of the vehicle and gave authorities permission to search it on July 13. However, she said the vehicle was purchased and primarily used by Hill until it broke down in February 2017, and that he continued to store belongings in it as it was parked on Saragosa’s property.

FBI special agent Travis Putrah testified that the agency seized the vehicle on June 29 and stored it in a Bemidji Police Department garage until it was searched on July 20, a week after written consent was obtained from Saragosa. On cross-examination, Putrah testified that the FBI never made any efforts to obtain a search warrant in the interim.

Richman contended in his motion that the search was “conducted without a warrant or exigent circumstance,” but Wardlaw argued that authorities had permission from the van’s owner and that Hill made no case for an expectation of privacy with the vehicle.

The defense is also seeking dismissal of either one of the murder counts, contending that Hill cannot be charged with two crimes for the same alleged offense.

Brisbois ordered written briefs on both issues, after which he will issue a report and recommendation to Senior U.S. Judge Paul Magnuson, who will preside over the case.

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