Jesse Azure, Belcourt, pleads not guilty to attempted murder

Jesse Reed Azure, 24, Belcourt, pleaded not guilty on Monday in district court in Minot to charges that he stabbed a relative multiple times on Jan. 29, terrorized the woman’s boyfriend, and stole her vehicle.

It was a hearing marked by delays and some last minute scrambling by the Ward County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The preliminary hearing was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, but Brian Williams, the investigating officer, was in Minnesota on Monday despite the fact that he had been subpoenaed to testify at the hearing. Judge Doug Mattson explained that there have been delays with this particular case, which might have caused confusion. Azure’s defense attorney, Ashley Gulke, told Mattson she would ask for the charges to be dismissed if an officer did not show up to testify. Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson said she would resist any motion to drop the charges, which include Class A felony attempted murder and Class C felony terrorizing and theft of property.

The state’s attorney’s office then tried to track down two other officers associated with the case – Senior Patrol Officer Andrew Mehlhoff and Lt. Matt McLeod – to testify. One of the officers was investigating another case at 1 p.m. on Monday. One was scheduled to take a flight that afternoon. While Mattson was inclined to make all parties involved wait until after all of the other hearings scheduled for 3:30 p.m. had been completed, attorneys for the state and defense had agreed to let the Azure case be heard first so the officer could make his flight. Both officers appeared and the hearing was held about 3:30 p.m.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed with the court and statements made in court on Monday, police had responded to the southwest Minot residence and found the woman sitting in the dining room, holding her stomach. An officer testified Monday that she had five individual stab wounds. She had been stabbed in the head, torso, and back. The woman told police that she had been sleeping in her bedroom when Azure came in and stabbed her multiple times with a knife. She did not know why he had stabbed her. She was taken to Trinity Hospital for treatment and was listed in stable condition after the attack. The woman’s boyfriend told police that he had been sleeping in his child’s room when he heard the woman screaming for help. He ran into the other room and saw Azure standing over the woman with a knife. He claimed that Azure charged at him with the knife, but he was able to maneuver Azure away from him. Azure then grabbed the woman’s car keys and drove off in a Ford Fusion. The woman’s boyfriend went to check on his son and told police he had covered the child with his body to protect him from Azure.

The alleged female victim, a distant cousin of Azure’s, has since submitted a signed and notarized statement to the Ward County State’ Attorney’s office recanting all of the statements she made against Azure, said Gulke, during the preliminary hearing on Monday. An officer also testified that neither the alleged female victim or her boyfriend have since spoken with police, despite police attempts to contact them. Gulke questioned officers at Monday’s hearing about whether the relationship between the woman and her boyfriend had been contentious. An officer also acknowledged that a steak knife was found in the bedroom by the side of the bed but was not sent to the state lab for analysis. McLeod said there was no blood on the knife and nothing to swab. McLeod testified that the knife that was found has been maintained as evidence and could still be sent away for analysis if need be.

According to the publicly available affidavit which has been redacted to remove both victims’ names, neither of the alleged victims could describe the knife used in the attack with any certainty. There was a pool of blood on the floor in the bedroom at the foot of the bed and a small blanket covered in blood. There were also blood traces leading from the bedroom to the bathroom. In the bathroom, there was blood all over the sink and floor, the water was running and a hand cloth soaked with blood was under the running water.

One person told police he had previously seen the knife and placed it in a kitchen drawer but the knife was no longer in the drawer and he couldn’t find it in the home.

Gulke argued that the state had not proved probable cause for the Class A felony attempted murder charge, the Class C felony terrorizing charge, or the Class C felony theft charge, but Judge Mattson found probable cause to let the case move forward. Azure, who has been held in jail since January, entered not guilty pleas. A pre-trial conference in the case is scheduled for Aug. 28.