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Brother pleads guilty to lesser role in Leisa Martin's death

BEMIDJI -- One of the two brothers charged with killing their sister in 1998 at their rural Bagley, Minn., home has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, of assisting in the disposal of her remains.

Todd Walter Martin, 36, of Fosston, Minn., pleaded guilty Jan. 5 in Clearwater County court in Bagley to a felony charge of aiding an offender. His brother still faces murder charges.

Todd and his brother, Troy Martin, 39, of Bagley, originally were charged with aiding and abetting manslaughter in the second degree in the death of Leisa Martin. They also faced a charge of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.

Under the second-degree murder charges, the brothers were accused of unintentionally causing their sister's death while holding her against her will.

On Oct. 28, 1998, Todd Martin reported Leisa, 31, missing. He told authorities he last saw her walk away from their rural Bagley home that morning. Three days later, hunters found her body near Roy Lake in Mahnomen County.

A state investigator told the Herald at the time they were pretty sure what happened but lacked enough evidence to bring charges against the brothers.

The case remained unsolved until January 2010, when Todd Martin was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and assaulting a deputy. During an interview, he told officers he and his brother were arguing with their sister in the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 1998, and restrained her, causing her to pass out.

His 2010 account dovetailed with what investigators had figured in 1998.

Clearwater County Attorney Richard Mollin said the brother's drunken revelation was the key to unlocking a stalled case.

"Neither Todd Martin nor his brother had revealed any potential incriminatory information until 2010," Mollin said Tuesday. "So, for the period from her death to 2010, the investigation was stalled because they were not providing information that would allow us to proceed."

Mollin said Todd Martin likely will not be sentenced until after his brother goes to trial.

Troy Martin faces charges of second-degree murder, second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter, aiding an offender and interfering with a dead body-concealing evidence.

A pre-trial conference for Troy Martin is set for April 4, with a jury trial scheduled for April 30.

Herald Staff Writer Stephen J. Lee contributed to this article.