DULUTH — Christopher Floyd Boder may not have personally pulled the trigger, but he was the “driving force” behind Timothy Jon Nelson’s September 2019 shooting death in West Duluth, Minn., a prosecutor told jurors Monday, Oct. 12.
“Literally and figuratively,” Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Nate Stumme said, “he had his foot on the gas.”
Boder, upset that Nelson had attempted to rob him while brandishing a weapon, chose to arm himself with a rifle, pick up his roommate and return to the scene for some “street justice,” Stumme told jurors.
“He said he would take everything from Timothy Nelson,” the prosecutor said, “and that’s exactly what he did.”
It took a 12-member jury less than two hours to agree, finding Boder guilty of aiding and abetting intentional second-degree murder.
Boder, 32, is the first defendant to stand trial for Nelson’s death. Jurors heard testimony over four days last week before returning to a Duluth courthouse for final instructions and closing arguments Monday.
Due to capacity restrictions, family members of both Nelson and Boder viewed the trial from another courtroom. The room remained quiet, and there were no outward displays of emotion as the verdict was read just after 1:30 p.m.
“We are pleased with the verdict and proud that our criminal justice system was able to adapt during a global pandemic to deliver justice,” Stumme told Forum News Service after the trial.
A few of Nelson’s loved ones hugged afterward; a representative said family members were too emotional to have any immediate comment on the verdict.
Boder’s lead defense attorney, Jeremy Downs, also declined to comment on the outcome. Boder earlier in the day chose not to testify, and the defense rested without calling any witnesses.
The state’s main witness, Jamie Sanford, testified last week that she was driving around with Nelson, 33, on the night of his death when she requested that he stop at Boder’s house. She said she had him park around the block before she walked over.
Sanford told jurors that she was looking for drugs and got in a car with Boder, who drove about two blocks away. They were sitting there chatting when Nelson suddenly appeared with what appeared to be a handgun, grabbing at Boder and demanding, “Give me everything you’ve got.”
Sanford testified that she and Boder successfully fought off Nelson, who apparently was unaware that it was them in the car. Boder and Sanford returned to his residence, where the defendant retrieved a rifle, and there were accompanied by co-defendant James Michael Peterson.
Sanford told jurors that she attempted to broker peace between the men, but Boder made a series of threatening statements toward Nelson and expressed a desire for revenge. Sanford was dropped off by Boder and Peterson at a Proctor gas station; she said she called Nelson to warn him, but he said he could handle it.
Witnesses reported hearing a confrontation followed by a gunshot before Nelson was found sitting in his truck with a wound to his abdomen on the 300 block of North 62nd Avenue West around 1:45 a.m. Sept. 22.
Stumme told jurors that Sanford’s account was “corroborated and verified by every investigative method employed by the (Duluth) Police Department,” including surveillance video, phone records and DNA testing.
The prosecutor noted Sanford voluntarily went to police later that day with her knowledge of the crime.
“She didn’t need to report herself,” Stumme said. “She might’ve said nothing. She had nothing to gain by reporting this to police. Everything to lose. It took an extraordinary level of courage.”
Downs, however, blasted Sanford as an “accomplice” to Nelson’s death, suggesting her statements were “self-serving” and lacking credibility. He argued Nelson and Sanford were instead working together to rob Boder.
“She had everything to do with causing Mr. Nelson’s death and tried to control the narrative that was presented to law enforcement,” the defense attorney said.
Citing Sanford’s testimony, Downs told jurors it was Peterson who shot Nelson, and that he did so after the victim “lunged” at the two men with a firearm that was later determined to be a flare or BB gun.
Downs argued that Sanford wasn’t trying to warn Nelson about an impending confrontation, but rather give him a “heads-up” for another robbery opportunity.
“Mr. Nelson didn’t get what he wanted the first time, so he waited in his truck by Mr. Boder’s house to try to get it a second time,” Downs asserted.
But Stumme said Boder had a "lethal desire" that night, taking a series of steps that culminated in tragedy.
“He had a clear and heinous goal: The death of Timothy Jon Nelson," the prosecutor argued.
As Boder was charged with aiding and abetting, it was not necessary for the jury to conclude that he personally pulled the trigger — only that he "aided, advised, hired, counseled or conspired" with Peterson and did not take reasonable steps to prevent the killing.
After the verdict, Judge Leslie Beiers revoked Boder’s bail and ordered an investigation ahead of his background ahead of a sentencing hearing that was not immediately scheduled.
Peterson, 39, faces an identical charge, while both men's girlfriends — Taylor Ann Fredrickson, 28, and Amber Rose Lousie Forrest, 30, — have been charged with aiding an offender after allegedly taking steps to hinder the police investigation.