A Becker County District Court jury on Thursday, June 10, convicted Morris Silas Dodd Jr. in the shooting death of retired Lake Park Police Chief Jay Nelson while hunting in Becker County in 2018.
Dodd, who is in his mid-50s and lives in rural Ogema, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter – culpable negligence for the Nov. 10, 2018, shooting death. Dodd previously pleaded guilty to two counts of ineligible person in possession of firearm or ammunition. Sentencing is scheduled for July 28.
“The charges in this case were the result of an incredible investigation put forth by members of the Becker County Sheriff’s Office, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Minnesota DNR, White Earth Tribal Police, White Earth DNR, the Detroit Lakes Police Department and the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office,” Becker County Attorney Brian McDonald said in a statement.
The case was prosecuted by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and the Becker County Attorney’s Office.
“On behalf of the Nelson family, I would like to thank the men and women of the jury for their service and attention to detail over the past week,” McDonald added. “Today’s verdict marks the first step towards justice in what has been a long wait for the family of Jay Nelson.”
According to the criminal complaint, a call came in reporting a death in rural Becker County on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, just after 6 p.m. Officers went to logging trail near Little Flat Lake, where they found Nelson dead in his vehicle.
An autopsy performed by the Ramsey County Medical Center determined that he had shot in his upper back-shoulder area. His death was classified as a homicide.
During the investigation, officers discovered a spent shell casing, a cigarette butt and footprints several hundred yards from where Nelson was found. A man was interviewed and recalled seeing an older man with a long beard hunting in the area at the time Nelson was shot. The older man was later identified as Morris Silas Dodd Jr.
On a later date, Dodd was interviewed and admitted to hunting in the area on Nov. 10. He stated he was hunting with a Remington Model 700 .30-06 rifle. Dodd stated that sometime that morning, he fired a shot in the area of a fawn, hoping to "spook it." He indicated that he was not purposefully trying to hit the fawn but just firing a shot in the general area to scare it. He denied seeing a vehicle or purposefully shooting at any vehicle or victim.
Officers seized Dodd's rifle and were able to match it to the spent shell found in the woods and the bullet found in Nelson's back.
Dodd was convicted of felony second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1994, making it illegal for him to possess a firearm. He faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine on the manslaughter charge and 15 years and/or a $30,000 fine for illegally possessing a firearm.
- RELATED: See other Becker County District Court cases