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Grand jury indicts Andersen for first-degree murder in Swedberg case

A Becker County grand jury has indicted a Waubun man for first-degree, premeditated homicide in the April 13 shooting death of Chad Swedberg, which occurred while he was processing maple syrup near his home in rural Ogema.

Kenneth Eugene Andersen, 34, of 37997 280th Ave., Waubun (Fish Hook Lake) was indicted Monday afternoon in Becker County District Court. He was a friend and business associate of Swedberg.

The grand jury deliberated all last week and reached a charging decision late Friday afternoon.

Andersen had already been charged with second-degree murder in the case. A grand jury indictment is required to bring a charge of first-degree homicide in Minnesota.

The first-degree homicide charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.

Second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, but state sentencing guidelines call for a term of about 25 years to 35 years, depending on prior criminal history.

There is no sentencing guideline for first-degree homicide, according to Becker County Attorney Joe Evans.

Andersen is accused of shooting Swedberg twice -- in the shoulder and hip areas -- with a high-powered rifle fired from a distance. The upper torso shot damaged internal organs and the combined gunshots caused Swedberg's death, according to court records.

Andersen's attorneys have disputed the allegations and called the state's case "extremely thin."

Swedberg was found shortly after 8 a.m. near a maple syrup cooker by his wife, Leslie Fain. She had heard two shots that morning and went to check on him after he didn't answer repeated cell phone calls.

A Tikka 300 Winchester Short Magnum bolt-action rifle, believed to be the murder weapon, was allegedly found covered by insulation in the ceiling of one of Andersen's outbuildings. The property was searched June 7.

During the investigation, friends and family members of the two men allegedly told investigators they believed Andersen was responsible for Swedberg's death.

One pointed out that the murder scene was in an "extremely remote" area that would have been very difficult to find without knowing the location, but Andersen had been there with Swedberg a few days before the shooting.

Another noted that he told Andersen that Swedberg was at the site that morning, shortly before the shooting occurred.

Another said that Swedberg was growing increasingly unhappy with a construction business partnership between himself and Andersen. Profits were supposed to be split 50-50, but Andersen was believed to be skimming more than his share.

One related a conversation in which Swedberg told him he was concerned about Andersen's character and criminal history, and that he intended to address those issues with Andersen and to quit the partnership and go into business on his own.

Andersen's criminal history includes a 1991 conviction for defrauding an insurer, a 2005 arrest for felony arson in Becker County, a contempt of court charge in Sherbourne County in 2005, a theft arrest in Roseau County last year, and several lesser offenses.

The Roseau County charge involves a stolen ATV, and one relative said both he and Swedberg told Andersen they would not lie to police to cover up for the theft, according to court records.

One said Andersen and Swedberg were feuding because Andersen owed him money, and because he had hidden the stolen ATV on Swedberg's property.

Andersen remains in the Becker County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond.

District Judge John Roue re-established the same bail on the new charge, with the same conditions. The second-degree murder charge will likely be dropped, but it will be several weeks before that happens, if it does happen, Evans said.

At the hearing Monday, Evans asked the court to order Andersen to again submit to finger, palm and hand printing, since the prints taken at the jail are not good enough for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab, which is attempting to match the prints to a gun.

The defense objected to the request for new prints.

"There is now a concern that prints are not being generated properly by local law enforcement," said the defense attorney, who asked that a BCA agent take the prints instead.

Evans said a BCA agent was on hand to take the prints, and the judge so ordered.

Andersen's next court appearance is set for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 1.