Pre-Trial Begins for Man Indicted in 26-Year Cold Case
Barbara Winn died of a gunshot wound 26 years ago. Now, family members and the Ramsey County Sheriff is trying to get the case moving.
20 March 2008
Aaron Foster appeared in court Thursday to answer charges that he murdered girlfriend Barbara Winn in 1981. Foster was indicted by a grand jury last November. On that day in May 1981, Barbara and Aaron got into a fight at a St. Paul bar. Upon returning home, they argued, and Barbara was shot. Barbara's children reported seeing Foster flee the town home that night, tossing the gun. Maplewood Police lost the physical evidence in the case. Police believe the evidence was lost when they moved to a new station house. Defense attorney Earl Gray says police intentionally destroyed the evidence, because modern forensics could clear his client. Authorities found a letter written by Barbara that night. It read, "I'm not your girlfriend anymore. I will not be abused. I am tired of the bruises. I am somebody and don't have to be treated like a nobody. Strike three you're out." Winn's children believe she intended to leave Foster the night she was killed. The defense is pushing for other statements to be tossed out before the trial. Foster has been accused of abusing and threatening other wives and girlfriends in the past. The pre-trial will resume Monday. [Source article is here]
Will '81 murder case be tried or dismissed?
The victim's family packed the court as a Ramsey County judge heard arguments for throwing out the case.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN
By PAT PHEIFER
March 20, 2008
About a half-hour after a hearing began Thursday in a St. Paul courtroom, the door swung open and family members of Barbara (Bobbi) Winn streamed in and in and in. Soon, at least four dozen people had squeezed into the benches. They have waited nearly 27 years for a case in her death to come to court, and now Ramsey County District Judge Edward Cleary was hearing arguments about dismissing the murder case against Aaron W. Foster and suppressing evidence and statements... Prosecutors declined to charge Foster in 1981, citing insufficient evidence. The case had political overtones when it was reopened in 2006 by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office during a contentious election race between Sheriff Bob Fletcher and former St. Paul Police Chief Bill Finney, a close friend and ally of Foster... In the years between the two investigations, however, physical evidence in the case, such as clothing, fingernail clippings and items found at the scene, was lost or destroyed... [Defense attorney Earl] Gray also argued that statements Foster made the night of Winn's death should be suppressed because officers did not read him his Miranda rights, and that a search of his person was unlawful. Prosecutor Deidre Aanstad contended that Foster wasn't in custody when he made those statements and he simply emptied his pockets when an officer asked him to. The court also heard testimony from a blood-spatter expert, and three retired Maplewood police officers who investigated the case. Prosecutors are expected to call at least one more witness when the hearing continues Monday... [Full article here]
Attorney wants suspect Aaron Foster's indictment tossed in case that was reopened in 2006
By Emily Gurnon
The investigation into the 1981 death of Barbara Winn could not have been more botched, including the loss or destruction of all physical evidence in the case, the attorney for Winn's alleged killer argued Thursday. Defense attorney Earl Gray, representing Aaron Walter Foster, argued several motions in Ramsey County District Court, trying to get the indictment against Foster thrown out or to suppress evidence... Authorities say he had abused Winn, his 35-year-old girlfriend, before. He had blood on his hands, got rid of the gun and gave outlandish statements about the events of the night of May 8, 1981, they argue. But Foster maintained Winn shot herself. The county attorney at the time did not press charges. Among the testimony at Thursday's hearing: All evidence in the case is now gone. Gray contends the state intentionally destroyed it to make it harder for Foster to defend himself. To this, Judge Edward Cleary responded, "Well, it goes both ways, doesn't it?" Kenneth Collins spent 32 years with the Maplewood Police Department and was an investigator on the Winn case. He said several items were taken to the St. Paul crime lab for examination, including the gun, a jacket and a shirt Foster had been wearing the night of Winn's death. Collins signed a document that said he had retrieved all but the gun from St. Paul - but there was no evidence those items made it back to the Maplewood police evidence locker. There is no entry in the logbook and no mention in his report... Gray also argued the search of Winn's house was illegal. Police didn't get written consent. When asked where the consent came from, Collins said, "From the Winn children, more than likely that same evening at the police department." Gray later said all three Winn children were younger than 16 at the time and therefore incapable of giving consent. The state, represented by Anoka County assistant attorneys Andrew Johnson and Deidre Aanstad, argued in their written briefs that Foster had consented to the warrantless searches and had invited officers to the scene to assist him. Ramsey County has referred the case to Anoka County to avoid any potential conflicts of interest... [Full article here]