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Menahga man charged with second-degree murder in PR woman's death

Harley David Leritz

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- A Menahga man will essentially be held without bond on a Second Degree Murder charge in the death of a Park Rapids woman Monday.

That’s because Harley David Leritz, 21, has been simultaneously charged with a probation violation for a 2012 criminal sexual conduct charge.

However, Judge Robert Tiffany, appearing by an ITV hookup from Bagley, set bail in the death of Kiela Gem Knowles, 19, at $1.5 million unconditional and $1 million with numerous conditions. The no bail condition was set in the felony probation violation case, which is Tiffany’s habit.

Tiffany said it would be “inimical to public safety” to set Leritz’s bail any lower.

Knowles was found dead in her Park Rapids apartment early Monday morning by her father after he was unable to reach her.

Leritz was arrested late Monday afternoon and allegedly confessed to the crime.

Only a handful of spectators in the crowded lobby were allowed into Hubbard County’s small courtroom, where the ITV setup is located. That left many standing outside in the hall during the proceedings.

Under Minnesota law, prosecutors can only level Second Degree Murder charges in a death case. A grand jury must indict an accused person to raise the charge to First Degree Murder.

Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne would not say if he would convene a grand jury in the case.

Leritz is accused of strangling Knowles until she died of asphyxiation.

An omnibus hearing is set for March 17.

Leritz was represented by public defender Paul Thompson. Before his court appearance, the defendant filled out the paperwork and qualified for the indigent defense.

Thompson argued for lower bail, contenting Leritz was a lifelong resident of the area. But because the probation violation is tracking along with the murder case, the no bail provision rules.

Leritz has previously been convicted of traffic and liquor charges, except for the Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct charge in 2012, which involved an underage female.

For that crime he received 30 days in jail and 10 years of supervised probation.

Dearstyne argued for $3 million unconditional bail and $2 million with conditions because of two prior violations of those conditions. The murder charge would be the third alleged violation.

Second degree murder, punishable by 40 years in prison, is defined as someone who ”causes the death of a human being with intent to effect the death of that person or another, but without premeditation.”

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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