BLUE EARTH - A grand jury has handed down an indictment against Brian Daniel Freeman, raising the charges against him to murder in the first degree.
"There are two counts of first-degree murder," said prosecutor Troy Timmerman. "One is based on premeditation."
Freeman, 29, of Ceylon, has been held in the Faribault County Jail since February on charges that he broke into a residence in Blue Earth in the early morning hours of Feb. 20, killing Christopher Fulmer, 37, and injuring Freeman's wife, Candice, and her two teenage daughters.
Scott Cutcher, Freeman's defense attorney, said the indictment was expected.
"Any time there's a murder, it's rare to not have a grand jury called and it's rare they do not come back with an indictment," said Cutcher, adding that he had talked to Freeman about the possibility and that Freeman was expecting it.
Freeman is now charged with 11 felony counts, including three in Fulmer's death: Murder in the first degree with premeditation; murder in the first degree while committing or attempting to commit a burglary; and murder in the second degree with intent to effect the death of that person.
The burglary charge indicates Freeman entered someone else's home to commit the assaults, not that he attempted to steal anything.
"He's looking at life in prison," Timmerman said. That is the maximum penalty for murder in the first degree.
If Freeman is convicted of committing murder without premeditation, he could be paroled, Timmerman said. Murder in the second degree carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Freeman faces four counts pertaining to his wife, Candice Freeman, 38, including: Attempted murder in the first degree with premeditation; attempted murder in the first degree while committing or attempting to commit a burglary; attempted murder in the second degree for attempting to cause the death of another; and assault in the first degree.
Freeman faces two counts of attempted murder in the second degree and two counts of assault in the first degree for the injuries to Candice Freeman's daughters.
The new charges are "alternate ways of charging the same thing," Timmerman said, noting the change allows the trial jury to consider lesser-included charges.
Timmerman said the new charges will not change the state's position, but Cutcher said it makes him re-think things.
"It does in that you have to look at it as a defense to premeditation," Cutcher said. "It changes defense strategy a bit."
The change in charges gives the trial jury more to decide, Cutcher explained. First, the jury will have to decide if the state has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and apply it to the charges.
"They could find him guilty on all of them," Cutcher said. "They could decide on second-degree murder with intent. If the case is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, they'd find him not guilty on all of them."
The next step in the process is an omnibus hearing July 18.
Timmerman said all the major evidence in the case has been processed.
"We might get a trial date at the omnibus," Cutcher noted.