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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

[MN] St. Paul Police Dept.'s Aaron Foster's past goes front page

Previous blog entry:
[MN] Ramsey Co. Sheriff Fletcher: Justice for Barbara Winn!
Saturday, April 28, 2007

North St. Paul woman turns website network of advocates
A North St. Paul woman uses a cold case to raise awareness of domestic violence.

By Anthony Lonetree, Star Tribune
Last update: October 16, 2007 ? 9:36 PM
[Excerpts] When an investigation into the shooting death of Barbara (Bobbi) Winn, of Maplewood, ended in 1981 without charges being filed, her family felt defeated. "We locked down," recalls Patty Bruce, a relative. But in 2006, Winn's case surfaced again, and this time, Bruce said, the family met and decided: "This time, we're going to fight." Bruce, in turn, has become a domestic violence activist, creating Web pages from her home that honor Winn and -- in a slide show depicting victims from across the United States -- draw attention to Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Her activism, ignited by online networking that has produced 800-plus "friends" on Barbara Winn's Myspace page, coincides [:)] with a potential legal breakthrough, as well. Anoka County prosecutors have decided to take the Winn case to a grand jury, possibly within the next three weeks. At the North St. Paul home that Bruce shares with her husband -- Barbara Winn's brother -- and their children, Barbara Winn's picture sits atop a piano in the living room... Asked how many hours she's spent in the past year on the Winn case, the correspondence and the online memorials, she said without hesitation, "thousands"... As a cold case, Barbara Winn's story may come to fascinate crime buffs. Winn died in May 1981 of a gunshot to the chest. A former live-in boyfriend, who was arrested but never charged, told authorities that she had told him she shot herself. She also asked him to get rid of the gun, he said, and he did so by taking it from the bedroom and tossing it out of a car window while he drove away from the area. The medical examiner's office never ruled on the death. Relatives have disputed the suicide claim, and Maplewood police reports have noted there was hair and skin under Winn's nails, indicating a struggle... The Ramsey County Attorney's Office, seeking to avoid its own conflict of interest, later referred the case to the Anoka County Attorney's Office. It decided last month to convene a grand jury to hear evidence in the case... likely in late October or early November...
On the family's website (www. justiceforbarbara.com), the development is being heralded simply as "a huge first step toward Justice for Barbara"...
(Full article is here.)

Who's going to the Grand Jury?:
Aaron Foster

1 comment:

  1. Citing destroyed evidence and the passage of time, prosecutors have no case, a defense lawyer says.

    By PAT PHEIFER, Star Tribune

    Last update: February 12, 2008 - 10:22 PM

    The alleged crime happened almost 27 years ago, most of the evidence has been thrown out and the murder indictment against Aaron W. Foster should be dismissed, Foster's attorney said in court papers filed in Ramsey County District Court.

    Defense attorney Earl Gray late last week filed four motions, two asking a judge to dismiss the charges against Foster and two asking to suppress evidence and statements that Foster, 56, gave to police in connection with the May 8, 1981, death of his girlfriend, Barbara Winn. The two shared a townhouse in Maplewood.

    Winn's family blamed Foster for her death from the start, but the case went uncharged until 2007 when the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office started its first cold-case unit and reopened the case. Foster was indicted by a grand jury last Nov. 1 on charges of third-degree murder.

    Foster had been arrested the day Winn died and was held for two days before being released without charges.

    In voluminous documents supporting the motions, Gray wrote, "Just because the police release the defendant without formal charges, an arrest triggers the [constitutional] right to a speedy trial. ... In these circumstances, an accused person in effect remains accused."

    In a motion for dismissal for destruction of evidence, Gray wrote, "None of the physical evidence in the case any longer exists."

    Although Foster's attorney at the time told Maplewood police in writing to preserve the evidence, it was nowhere to be found when the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension began looking into the case in 2002, according to police reports and court documents. In one police report, an officer said the evidence "was probably thrown away."

    That evidence included the gun that killed Winn; items taken from the bedroom where she died, including short curly hairs found in her hand; fingernail clippings taken during her autopsy; clothes worn by Winn and Foster; and many other pieces, according to the court documents.

    Prosecutors can present testimony about and pictures of the physical evidence to the jury, but Gray said he needs the evidence itself in order to test and examine it.

    "The intentional destruction of exculpatory physical evidence in [Foster's] case has denied him his rights to due process," the motion said.

    A hearing is scheduled for March 20 before Ramsey County District Judge Edward J. Cleary. The case is being prosecuted by the Anoka County attorney's office.

    Former St. Paul Police Chief William Finney was a friend of both Foster and Winn. The case gained political overtones when Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher reopened it during the heated 2006 election, when he was in a close race with Finney for the office.

    Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551


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