3 found guilty in Grand Forks home invasion
A jury found three men guilty today of all charges in a 2012 violent home invasion and burglary of a Grand Forks couple. After less than four hours of deliberation, the jury of seven men and five women found Allen Ratliff, his brother Nathan Ratl...
A jury found three men guilty today of all charges in a 2012 violent home invasion and burglary of a Grand Forks couple.
After less than four hours of deliberation, the jury of seven men and five women found Allen Ratliff, his brother Nathan Ratliff and Cody Boulduc, each guilty on all six felony counts they faced.
The three could face up to life in prison because prosecutors have asked the court to declare them habitual dangerous offenders, a special provision in state law.
If state District Judge Debbie Kleven approves the prosecution's motion later this summer and names them habitual offenders, it would "enhance" the maximum sentence on the most serious felony of which the men were convicted: robbery using a dangerous weapon. As a Class A felony, the charge's normal maximum sentence is 20 years in prison, but anyone ruled a habitual dangerous offender could be sentenced up to life in prison with parole for the crime.
All three men have several felony convictions and Boulduc and Allen Ratliff are serving time now for previous crimes.
The verdict came in at about 5 p.m. Tuesday. The jury began deliberating about 12:40 p.m. Tuesday after about four and a half days of testimony from a dozen prosecution witnesses.
The three men did not testify in their defense.
After the verdict was read, Allen Ratliff, 29, and Nathan Ratliff, 28, left the courtroom fighting back tears after spending a few moments with their mother and friends. Boulduc, 25, appeared to jostle angrily with a sheriff's deputy who escorted him out of the courtroom, exchanging unfriendly words.
The men will be held without bond in the Grand Forks jail until sentencing.
Defense attorneys Gretchen Handy, David Ogren and David Dusek declined to comment.
Carmell Mattison, assistant state's attorney for Grand Forks County who gave a closing statement Tuesday morning, praised the jury's work.
"This was a very complex case with a lot of evidence and a lot of witnesses," Mattison said.
In the unusual joined trial of three defendants, the jury had to decide separately on each six counts for each defendant separately.
The 12 jurors, in effect, decided the three men were the masked men shown in a short and grainy security video kicking in the door of Carmen Jones' trailer home in north Grand Forks about 5:30 a.m., April 30, 2012.
Carmen Jones and her husband, Sherman Jones, testified three men wearing ski masks, gloves and coats beat them with small clubs, bound them with duct tape and threatened their lives unless they revealed where their prescription medications and jewelry could be found. One of the masked men beat one of her Chihuahuas to death because it wouldn't stop barking, Carmen Jones testified.
The men's attorneys argued in court that no fingerprints or DNA evidence linked their clients to the break-in of the Jones home and that the couple could not identify the defendants as the intruders.
Ogren, attorney for Allen Ratliff, told the jury that Carmen Jones' unusually large number of prescribed painkillers -- nearly 1,600 in one month -- made her a theft target for other people who knew of her prescriptions.
She had, in fact, been the victim of thieves before, Jones testified, naming others, which is why she had the security cameras installed on the outside of her home in 2011.
That the three men were in possession of the stolen property within an hour or so of the burglary did not necessarily mean they were the ones who stole it, Ogren said.
Handy told the jury there were too many holes in the prosecution's case and that there was no good evidence her client, Boulduc, was at the scene of the break-in, although she admitted he did pawn Sherman Jones' wedding ring in Fargo a few hours after the burglary.
Dusek, attorney for Nathan Ratliff, urged the jury to blame the police for what he said was "a sloppy and incomplete investigation."
He said they failed to test items for DNA or fingerprints and didn't follow up on other possible suspects "because they liked these three guys," as suspects.
Police also engaged in "trickery," pressuring witnesses, Dusek said.
During an interview with Amber Hamley -- who testified the three men left her apartment less than an hour before the burglary saying they planned to rob someone -- police turned off the recorder for a time, Dusek said.
When the recording resumes, Hamley remembers things she didn't before, Dusek said.
"What do they have to hide? Why do they want to shut off the tape, instead of keeping it running? They wanted to talk to her, they wanted to put pressure on her," Dusek said.
Investigators presented no forensic evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA linking his client or his two co-defendants to the burglary of the home of Carmen Jones, including the clear footprint on the kicked-in door visible in prosecution exhibits, Dusek said.
In her closing, Mattison told the jury the three men's defense was nothing more than "Some other dudes did it."
But circumstantial and direct evidence, including pawn store receipts and discovery of stolen loot in the men's possession soon after the burglary proved their guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt," Mattison said.
Allen Ratliff's then-girlfriend, Genevieve Slominski, told investigators the three men arrived at her home less than an hour after the burglary "out of breath, excited," and dumped items on her child's bed later identified as stolen from the Joneses, Mattison said.
A billy club, or "tire thumper," identical to one left behind by the burglars in Carmen Jones bedroom was found in Slominski's dryer which she said the men carried from her garage into her apartment after the burglary, Mattison said.
Nathan Ratliff's wife, Shawn, had jewelry belonging to Carmen Jones given to her in Fargo within hours after the burglary by Nathan Ratliff, Mattison said.