ROSEAU, Minn. -- A man and woman from Badger, Minn., were arraigned today in state district court here on second-degree murder charges in the death of their neighbor, John Currier, in the dark, early hours of Friday.
Judge Donna Dixon set bail at $1 million cash or surety for both Jeremy Lemen, 34, and Desiree Shinholser, 24, and set Oct. 29 for their next appearance with attorneys when they can enter a plea.
Lemen and Shinholser are a couple and lived together in an apartment in the same building in Badger where Currier lived alone.
Prosecutor Eric Schieferdecker, an assistant attorney general assisting Roseau County Attorney Karen Foss in the case, asked the judge for the high bail in part because he said Lemen admitted to investigators Saturday that he had strangled Currier to death with his hands, so he posed a threat to public safety.
Schieferdecker also said Shinholser has several criminal convictions in the region, including a failure to appear last month for a mental competency hearing in a case in which she's charged with assaulting a deputy by spitting in his face in the emergency room in the hospital in Roseau in August.
They face identical charges as far as second-degree murder in intentionally killing Currier, which has a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison; Shinholser's count, however, also includes the allegation that she aided and/or conspired with someone in killing Currier.
Lemen told investigators he and Currier had fought Thursday night into the early hours of Friday. In court today, he still showed the bruises on his face that investigators said showed up clearly when he was arrested Saturday. He said Currier came home drunk after bar-closing Thursday night or early Friday morning and tussled with him, and threw a barbecue grill at Lemen, hitting him in the face.
Currier's girlfriend reported him missing Friday to the Roseau County Sheriff's Office, saying she last saw him Thursday evening but had been unable to locate him Friday. While looking out his bedroom window Saturday, the woman said she could see what looked to be his body in a small enclosed space at the apartment building.
Investigators arrived at the scene and found a messy apartment, according to the court affidavit of probable cause written by Deputy Jeff Nelson. After the short hearing today, Nelson said Currier's body was found in a sort of attic space in the eight-unit apartment complex.
It was lying in a "near-fetal position with the feet at a higher elevation," Nelson's report stated. ". . .the ankles appeared to have been bound by belt or similar type object and that there appeared to be some possible bruises and minor abrasions present (on) the victim's legs."
After first telling investigators falsely that Shinholser was not home -- they soon found her barricaded inside their apartment with a dresser against the door -- Lemen said he put a choke hold on Currier until his arms got tired, and that Shinholser helped him and hit Currier with a hatchet or other similar weapon. He said they used belts to restrain Currier's arms and legs during their attack.
Together, they carried Currier's body out of his bedroom window into the small space where it was found the next day, he told investigators.
He told them Currier had attacked Shinholser earlier in the week in the hallway of their apartment building, throwing her to the ground, leading the couple to plan to assault him. He said he burned the bloody clothes he and Shinholser wore during the attack in a fire pit outside their apartment building.
Lemen told investigators Saturday that Shinholser was pregnant.
The medical examiner's office in St. Paul reported Currier died of homicide, caused by asphyxia due to manual strangulation. His body also had fractures to cartilage and bone in this throat area and "chopping wounds and blunt force injuries to the head, as well as numerous contusions to the body."
Both Lemen and Shinholser said they could not afford to hire an attorney.
Schieferdecker said Lemen had lived in the Badger area for about four years and that his family mostly lived in California; he had a minor arrest in Arizona several years ago and a misdemeanor conviction in 2010 in Roseau County for giving alcohol to a minor.
In August, a deputy responded to a call of a woman screaming on Main Street in Badger and found Shinholser hanging upside down from a mail box. She was acting strangely, yelling incoherently and running in circles. When the deputy tried to arrest her, she jumped on top of his squad vehicle. On the way in to the jail, she "drooled on herself and urinated on herself," the deputy reported and appeared to be under the influence of a drug. Taken to the local emergency room, she continued to fight with medical personnel and deputies, spitting in the face of one deputy, according to the court complaint.
Judge Dixon ordered that Shinholser now get the mental evaluation that she skipped last month on the assaulting a law officer and disorderly conduct charges.
In August, she was using the name Desiree Nicole Meyer-Shinholser.
Currier worked at Polaris Industries in Roseau, said his landlord.
He is from International Falls, Minn., where he has family members, the landlord said.