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Minnesota murder case where young man burned, thrown in mine pit draws to a close

VIRGINIA, Minn. - Sean Joseph Powers had been a close friend and roommate to Hibbing homicide victim Jaysen Greenwood.That fact weighed heavily on the minds of Greenwood's family members as they came to the St. Louis County Courthouse in Virginia...

Jaysen Greenwood
Jaysen Greenwood

VIRGINIA, Minn. - Sean Joseph Powers had been a close friend and roommate to Hibbing homicide victim Jaysen Greenwood.

That fact weighed heavily on the minds of Greenwood's family members as they came to the St. Louis County Courthouse in Virginia on Monday to see Powers sent to prison - marking the end of a nearly yearlong saga that began with the discovery of Greenwood's burned body in an old mine pit in Mountain Iron.

Why would Powers help his friend's killer remove the body from their apartment? Why would he clean the crime scene and dispose of evidence? Why would he lie to investigators about his knowledge of the killing in a series of interviews over the next month?

"We've never felt pain so deep," the victim's sister, Jazlyn Greenwood, said Monday. "The fact that Sean was involved was shocking. He was part of Jaysen's life for as long as I can remember."

Powers, for his part, didn't have a satisfactory explanation to offer - only an apology.

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"I'm sorry for what happened," he said. "I never wanted any of this to happen. No one deserved this, especially Jaysen and his family. I'm truly sorry for what I did."

For his involvement in the cover-up, 6th Judicial District Judge James Florey sentenced Powers to 41 months in prison.

The 19-year-old is the third and final defendant to be sentenced in the case. He pleaded guilty last month to a felony charge of aiding an offender after the fact, accepting the guideline prison term under an agreement with the St. Louis County Attorney's Office.

Powers admitted that he concealed evidence and lied to investigators after Greenwood, 20, was stabbed, beaten and strangled inside their Hibbing apartment by 19-year-old Dylan Bernard Gilbertson in May 2016.

"This experience has taught us an important lesson," Jazlyn Greenwood said. "You can never truly trust anyone as well as you think you can."

Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Karl Sundquist acknowledged that Powers wasn't involved in the killing itself, but stressed that the criminal aspect of his actions came after the fact.

"This is a tough situation," the prosecutor said. "Sean Powers did not ask to be in this situation. He didn't ask for the death of Jaysen Greenwood. But he sure could've done something about it after the fact."

Gilbertson admitted at a November plea hearing that he had stabbed Greenwood with a knife and beat him with a bat, claiming that the assault stemmed from an argument over stolen property.

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Gilbertson testified that he and his other roommates, Powers and 16-year-old Julianna Christine Sala, wrapped Greenwood's body in a blanket and carried it to a car. Sala also admitted to riding with Gilbertson to Mountain Iron to dispose of the remains.

In several statements to investigators in the days and weeks after Greenwood's death, Powers claimed that he was asleep the entire night, never helped clean the apartment and didn't have any knowledge of Gilbertson's involvement in the killing.

However, authorities said they discovered that Powers had asked a third party for a gas can that night. He came forward in June to admit that he had woken up between 3 and 4 a.m. on May 19, seeing blood in the apartment. He admitted that he helped clean, and said that Gilbertson told him later that morning that he had "gotten Jaysen Greenwood really good."

Defense attorney James Perunovich told the judge that his client made some bad decisions after he was unwittingly brought into the case.

"He woke up to a bad situation," Perunovich said. "I'm not sure how any teenager reacts to finding a body in his living quarters."

Greenwood's family, meanwhile, said they still have yet to hear the full story of what led up to their loved one's death or why Powers was not forthcoming from the beginning.

"It feels as though it just happened yesterday," Jazlyn Greenwood said. "Some of us are still in disbelief. It still seems unreal. It's something I try to avoid, but every time I step into the courtroom, the feeling is 10 times worse."

Florey, presiding over his third sentencing in the case, acknowledged the family's trauma and the difficulty of making repeated trips to the courthouse.

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Gilbertson in December was sentenced to 35 years in prison after pleading guilty to intentional second-degree murder.

Sala, like Powers, was charged with a felony count of aiding an offender after the fact, but her case remained in juvenile court. She pleaded guilty in January, later receiving an extended juvenile jurisdiction sentence that keeps her on probation until her 21st birthday while she attends school and undergoes treatment at a juvenile facility.

In imposing the case's final prison sentence, Florey said he was troubled by Powers' actions.

"No one can understand that," the judge said. "Your conduct made it so much worse. Being a trusted friend certainly adds to that. I don't think any of us can understand what went through your mind that night to make this case so much worse."

Powers must serve a little more than 2 years and 3 months of the prison sentence before he is eligible for supervised release.

"You'll have a lot of time to think about this,"Florey told him. "You'll be given the chance Jaysen didn't have to do something with your life."

Jaysen Greenwood
Sean Powers

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