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The plot thickens: Testimony continues at Andersen trial

A number of witnesses testified Thursday at the first-degree murder trial of Kenneth Andersen of rural Waubun.

He is accused of killing Chad Swedberg with two shots from a high-powered rifle. The prosecution believes it occurred shortly after 8 a.m. on April 13, 2007.

-- Vernon Wander, who has lived on the east side of White Earth Lake for 39 years, said he heard gunshots on the morning of the shooting.

"I was out between the house and shop and I heard two shots."

He said he thought it was about 8:30 or 9 a.m., but it may have been earlier.

The shots came from across the lake, in the direction of the Swedberg's maple syrup camp.

"There's shooting there all the time, it's nothing to get excited about," he said. The shots on the day of the murder sounded like a .30-06 or some other type of .30 caliber hunting rifle, he said.

-- Lisa Swedberg, who has been married to Chad's brother, Ken, for 12 years, testified that she listened to Swap and Shop on KDLM Radio until 8:45 a.m., then left to take a daughter to pre-school screening. Her husband was home the whole time, making pollen patties to be rolled out for honeybees. He manages the family bee business, she said.

-- Brad Riggle, 29, of Callaway testified that he has known Chad Swedberg and Kenneth Andersen since he was 13. He got to know them through an older brother, he said.

Riggle stayed at the Chad Swedberg-Leslie Fain residence for a while five or six years ago when he was going with Leslie Fain's daughter, Rachel. He visited weekly after that.

Swedberg and Fain had a normal relationship, he said. "They got along," he said. "They occasionally argued, and sometimes they were embarrassing affectionate towards each other -- it went both ways."

He also visited Ken Andersen at his house five or six times a month to hunt, fish, barbecue or just hang out with friends.

Riggle and a friend, Douglas Haverkamp, had planned to go to Detroit Lakes for lunch on the day of the shooting.

Those plans changed after Andersen called a little after 9 a.m. and asked Haverkamp to drive him to Fargo to see a loan officer, Riggle said.

Riggle asked to go along, but changed his mind after Andersen asked him, twice, if he was sure he wanted to go, since they'd be stuck in Fargo all day.

Andersen "seemed to be his normal self that morning," Riggle said, adding that he had never been excluded like that before, but "it was his business, so I found something else to do."

After he had been home for a while, he learned Swedberg had been shot. He called the Swedbergs and talked with Leslie Fain and her sister, Morningstar Bellcourt. Leslie was "crying and in shock," he said.

He tried to call Kenneth Andersen five times and got no answer. Later he learned Andersen's cell phone had died and was being charged as Haverkamp drove him to Fargo in Andersen's pickup.

"Does your cell phone ring when it's plugged in?" asked Al Zdrazil, an assistant attorney general helping Becker County Attorney Mike Fritz prosecute the case.

"Yes," Riggle said.

"Does it ring when it's plugged in and charging and turned off?" asked defense attorney Rory Durkin.

"No," Riggle said.

-- Douglas Haverkamp, 26, of Ogema testified that he has known Kenneth Andersen, who is a cousin, all his life. He knew Chad Swedberg well, too.

Haverkamp said Andersen had hunted the wooded area that included the maple syrup camp and knew the area.

On the day of the shooting, Haverkamp drove Andersen to Mahnomen to finish his tax return -- it took 10 minutes or less -- then to Moorhead to see a loan officer. Andersen was planning on starting a leeching business and needed money to buy leeches.

"He said he was going to have Chad give him a ride to the loan place, but couldn't because he was maple-syruping," Haverkamp said.

"He talked a little about the leeching business," he added. Swedberg and Haverkamp would do the leeching and delivery and Andersen would stay home and do the selling and buying.

Once at the loan office, Andersen was only inside for about five minutes before he came out to the truck.

"He was running, practically," Haverkamp testified. "He said Kenny Swedberg had been shot. Then Kenny (Andersen) got a phone call and we found out it was Chad."

Haverkamp served in the infantry in Iraq for seven months in 2003-2004, and District Judge Peter Irvine thanked him for his service after his testimony.

-- Nicole Knudson, branch manager for CitiFinancial in Moorhead, testified that Andersen applied over the phone for an unsecured $7,500 loan for "home repairs" in April. The branch doesn't handle business loans, she said.

"He needed to come in to prove income," she told Fritz, who alternated with Zdrazil in questioning witnesses.

It was very busy that Friday and she could only say that Andersen was at the loan office "sometime before 2 p.m.," she said.

Since he was self-employed, Andersen needed federal income tax returns for the previous two years, 2004 and 2005, since he hadn't finalized filing 2006 taxes yet.

He had his 2004 taxes, but not 2005, which he tried unsuccessfully to get by calling his tax professional.

"He was a little agitated, nervous," she said. Then he got a cell phone call and when he hung up he told her "his business partner had been shot and he had to go." He and Chad Swedberg ran a construction company together.

His loan application was put on hold, and denied a week later because his 2005-2006 income was too low, she said.

Under questioning by Durkin, the defense attorney, she conceded that it is not unusual for customers to get nervous, frustrated or anxious, especially if they have been turned down for a loan.

Fritz pointed out he had not been rejected for the loan at that point.

She also said it was "possible" she had mis-heard Andersen and he had actually said "my business partner's brother has been shot."

That would mesh with him originally telling Haverkamp that it was Ken Swedberg, not Chad, who had been shot.

-- The jury also heard from Wanda Nelson, of Jackson-Hewitt tax service in Mahnomen.

Ken Andersen had a 2 p.m. appointment to finalize his taxes that day, but showed up about 9:45 or 10 a.m., she said.

"He was nervous, he seemed more nervous," (than in previous meetings), she said. He was in the office for about 15 minutes, she estimated.

Under questioning from Durkin, she said that it is not unusual for people to be nervous at tax time.

She had testified previously (apparently before the Grand Jury that handed down the first-degree murder indictment) that "that he came in really late or he came in really early -- he was never on time," Durkin said.

"Right," Nelson agreed.

The tax return was received as evidence, over the objection of the defense.

"May I just inquire as to what purpose that's been introduced for?" Durkin said.

"It's been received," said Judge Irvine, a former defense attorney himself. "Next question, Mr. Fritz."

Andersen qualified for a $30 federal refund and nothing from the state. He called about 4 p.m. the day of the shooting and asked for a copy of the 2006 return, then came in and picked it up shortly after he called, Nelson said.

-- Jeff Thompson, a painter at the Shooting Star Casino, testified he knew Chad Swenson and Ken Andersen from grade school days. When he heard the news by phone, he "freaked out, cried," and called around trying to find out what people knew about the death. He ultimately went to Ken Andersen's house.

"He looked probably like I did, broke up, upset," he said. "We wondered what had happened, who could do something like this. He said he had talked to him that morning, on the phone.

He showed Thompson his cell phone two or three times during the conversation, showing that the time he talked to Chad had been about 7:50 a.m.

The prosecution and defense sparred over whether Andersen's intent had been to show the time and establish an alibi, or whether it was a natural reaction, a physical symbol of just having talked to a slain friend a few hours earlier. Thompson told Durkin he agreed with the defense's interpretation.

-- Mitch Anderson, Ogema Elementary School principal, testified that Ann Fain, Leslie Fain's daughter-in-law, who lived at the Swedberg-Fain residence with her husband, Jesse, and two children, had dropped one child off at school shortly after 8 a.m.

-- Morningstar Bellcourt, Leslie Fain's younger sister, who also lived at the residence with her son, Thomas Covington, testified that she worked late as a security guard at the Shooting Star Casino the night before the murder, and woke up that morning from a bad dream.

"I still felt like something was wrong," she said. When she learned something had happened to Chad, she swore, got dressed and ran outside. Kenny Swedberg was going by in a Bobcat. "I yelled real loud and he stopped. I didn't ask, I just jumped on. We stopped for a pallet on the way up."

The trail was quite muddy and they thought they would have to bring Chad down on the pallet, since an ambulance would never be able to get up it.

She cried as she talked about her sister, Leslie Fain, kneeling in the mud trying to hold back two protective Labrador retrievers that didn't like the paramedics working on Chad.

"She was crying, screaming, Chad was laying there, and she was saying "why would somebody do this?"

They managed to get the struggling dogs down the trail, where they were helped by family friend Al Baker, who helped them all into the back of his pickup truck and drove them home.

His help was needed, she said. "I knew we wouldn't be able to walk all the way back with those dogs going crazy like that," Morningstar said. Once home, they put the dogs in the garage and Leslie Fain emotionally collapsed, she said.

"She was saying 'I don't want to live. What am I going to do without my Chad?'" Morningstar said.

Things were chaotic at the house, and Morningstar said she started answering phones.

One call -- at 10:52 a.m. -- was from Kenneth Andersen, who asked if Chad was there and said "this is his bro, Fud." Morningstar was surprised he didn't already know, and told him the bad news. She then asked officers to let him and a relative through to the house when he arrived.

-- Al Baker, 72, has lived on Snyder Lake east of Waubun for 22 years.

An electrician for Caterpillar Tractor Co. for 30 years, his skills are valued in the Waubun-Ogema area, and he is the go-to guy for projects from maple-syruping to leeching.

"I mostly help everybody," he said. "I've wired some houses, poured some concrete, built some houses, too."

He built the 200-some cast-aluminum maple sap traps used by Swedberg, and he built the syrup condenser as well.

He had planned to meet Chad Swedberg and his stepson, Jesse Fain, at the maple syrup camp on the morning of the shooting to help with the syrup cooking.

Andersen had called him that morning and asked him to stop by to see if a bulk tank could be converted into tanks to hold leeches.

The prosecution contends Andersen made the 7:52 a.m. call because he knew the plan and wanted to buy time to commit the murder.

Baker and Andersen were friends, and the defense contends Baker knew leeching and knew tanks, and he was the person to ask about the potential for an existing tank at Andersen's place.

At any rate, Andersen was not home, and Baker looked around a bit, called Andersen's cell phone unsuccessfully, and then headed over to the maple syrup camp.

For whatever reason, Baker said Andersen hasn't asked him about leech tanks before or since.

Baker said Swedberg was leery of going into the leeching business with Andersen, because Andersen didn't have a driver's license and wouldn't be able to travel independently.