#5 — Drugs fuel crime in Minot

Andrea Johnson/MDN This was the home where Richie Wilder Jr. murdered his ex-wife Angila Wilder in November 2015. A memorial picture of Angila Wilder is shown in the front window of her home in northwest Minot in late December 2015.

Crime continued to dominate the headlines in Minot in 2015.

In January, Anthony Campbell was convicted of beating and stabbing Shannon Brunelle to death in an apartment garage on Sept. 15, 2015. Campbell, who maintains his innocence, will serve 30 years for the crime.

In mid-December, another high profile murder case ended in a conviction when a jury found Richie Wilder Jr. guilty of stabbing and cutting his ex-wife Angila Wilder 44 times in her home in November 2015. The former couple had battled over custody of their children and a judge had ordered them to communicate only via email. Wilder, who maintains his innocence, faces up to life in prison without parole when he is sentenced next year.

In September, another high profile case ended when former school superintendent Charles Soper, 52, was sent to prison for up to 40 years for sex crimes involving three teenage male victims. The boys were 14 or 15 at the time of the crimes in 2014 and 2015. None were Soper’s students.

The new year will bring more focus on other high profile charges.

Dr. Marc Eichler, a Minot neurosurgeon, will go on trial in federal court in Bismarck on Feb. 7 on charges that he abused two girls last year when they were 12 and 13. A federal grand jury indicted Eichler on June 1 of two counts of production of materials depicting the sexual exploitation of minors; two counts of attempted production of materials depicting the sexual exploitation of minors; one count of receipt of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors; one count of attempted receipt of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors and one count of transfer of obscene materials to minors.

State charges against Eichler were dismissed.

In October, the mother of one addict facing charges expressed frustration with the system.

“Two of my son’s friends have died in the past two years because of drug overdoses,” Nancy Bommelman, mother of Aaron Bruce, told the Minot Daily News in October. “My son was jailed for drugs. I’ve asked for help for my son. I took him to Trinity and they said he’s not at that point. What’s he supposed to be, dead?”

Bruce is charged with manslaughter, a Class B felony, in the July 1, 2015, heroin overdose death of his friend Aidan Vanderhoef. He has pleaded innocent to the charges and is scheduled to go on trial on July 13.

Local law enforcement officials also have noted the parade of drug addicts and drug dealers who almost daily appear in district court in Minot and keep the jails full.

Bob Barnard, Ward County’s interim sheriff, said in October that he has placed money in the sheriff’s office budget for 2017 to contract with medical professionals to do mental health and drug addiction evaluations of prisoners. It may be a first step toward a trend of seeking treatment for some offenders rather than incarceration.

Minot Police Chief Jason Olson also spoke about the need to focus on treatment instead of prison for low level drug offenders. Olson serves on two legislative committees that are looking at alternatives to drug offenses.

Drug offenses are also a contributing factor to other cases that are currently winding their way through district court.

Captain John Klug, Minot Police Department: Without (citing) numbers, I would say that property crimes such as thefts and burglaries continue to be very tasking on the department and our investigative resources. We continue to investigate these crimes, but in many cases we have very limited information and no suspect source unless there is video of the incident. Many of our thefts are solved through recovery of property. Motor vehicle thefts continue to be a major issue as well and in most cases the vehicles are found abandoned, therefore, the crime goes unsolved.”

Parents have been charged with child neglect for allegedly permitting children to be around drugs.

Several people charged in district court this year who appeared to have stolen money to fuel their drug habit. Other people who were charged with assaulting significant others or family members were allegedly high on drugs or drunk at the time.

Vincent Musi, who robbed several Minot businesses at gunpoint last May, told a judge at his sentencing hearing that an addiction to drugs was a contributing factor.

“The only thing I can say, your honor, is I went down the wrong path with drugs,” Musi told Judge Doug Mattson in August. “Before this I had no criminal record. I moved here and I got way too into drugs.”

Musi claimed that he became addicted to opiates after they were prescribed when he broke his collarbone.