Milo Whitetail pleads not guilty to murder
Milo Whitetail, 57, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to the Class AA May 25 felony murder of Eric Christopher Patterson, 43.
According to court documents and testimony at the preliminary hearing, Whitetail stabbed Patterson 20 times in the head, neck, chest and side after they had argued over batteries that were missing from Whitetail’s remote control in a room at the Economy Hotel in Minot.
Patterson was identified by police as the victim in the case, but Patterson was referred to at a preliminary hearing on Thursday as “John Doe.” Whitetail had told police that Patterson followed him to his room and, at some point during the argument, grabbed Whitetail by the throat. They toppled over the bed and landed on the floor with Patterson on top of Whitetail. Whitetail then grabbed the steak knife off the night stand, stabbed Patterson and kept stabbing because he was angry.
On Thursday, under questioning from Ward County Assistant State’s Attorney Tiffany Sorgen, Detective Stephanie Lentz of the Minot Police Department testified that she had reviewed video footage from the hotel that showed Whitetail knock on Patterson’s door and then gesture for Patterson to follow him back to his room. Lentz also testified that a witness reported hearing someone calling, “Help me. This hurts!” from Whitetail’s room. She testified that Patterson weighed 120 pounds and Whitetail was twice Patterson’s size, at 240 pounds. During an interview with police, Whitetail had said that he didn’t like people touching him and had been angry. Whitetail, who had claimed self defense, had told police he might have gone too far and then said that he might not have gone too far.
Under questioning from the defense, Lentz testified that an autopsy on Patterson indicated that Patterson had methamphetamine and amphetamines in his blood at the time of his death as well as an anti-depressant and anti-seizure medication. Patterson was on the anti-seizure medication because he had sustained a traumatic brain injury at the age of 17, Lentz testified. In her experience, Lentz testified, people on methamphetamine can display anger or violent behavior. Defense attorney Eric Baumann asked whether a person on meth can have a burst of strength. Lentz testified that she has not observed this but has heard that it can occur. Whitetail did not have drugs in his room, she testified. Baumann asked Lentz if she is aware that a desk clerk called 911 after hearing Whitetail call for help.
Whitetail has an extensive criminal record in federal, state and tribal courts, including violent offenses. Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson had told the judge at Whitetail’s initial appearance that the state might seek to have Whitetail declared a habitual offender, which would enable the judge to double any sentence Whitetail receives if he is convicted or pleads guilty.
The maximum sentence for AA felony murder is life without parole, but a lesser sentence is also possible.
Judge Doug Mattson found probable cause for the case to move forward and Whitetail then pleaded not guilty.
The next hearing in the case is a pre-trial conference scheduled for Nov. 30 before Judge Mattson.