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09/12/75 WELFARE CHILD NAMED JAMES AARON CHUESBERG

September 12, 1975

IN RE WELFARE OF CHILD NAMED JAMES AARON CHUESBERG


Appeal by James Aaron Chuesberg from an order of the Ramsey County District Court, Archie Gingold, Judge, whereby he was adjudged to be delinquent, the delinquency consisting of murder in the third degree.

Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Juveniles -- delinquency adjudication -- commission of murder -- sufficiency of evidence -- hearsay declarations of child.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

This is an appeal by James Aaron Chuesberg from an order of the Ramsey County District Court, Juvenile Division, adjudging him a delinquent on the ground that he was, at the age of 15, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing murder in the third degree, Minn. St. 609.195. The appeal raises three issues: (1) Whether the juvenile court committed prejudicial error in admitting testimony that the 3-year-old son of the victim, within a short time after the murder, stated that Chuesberg did it; (2) whether there was sufficient evidence to support a finding that beyond a reasonable doubt Chuesberg committed the murder; and (3) whether the state deprived Chuesberg of a fair trial by the proceeding in juvenile court. We affirm.

The victim in this case was Linda Hiler, a 22-year-old mother of two young children and wife of Chuesberg's cousin, Edwin Hiler. Her body was discovered lying in a pool of blood in her residence in the McDonough Project at about 11 p.m. on October 26, 1973, by one Kendall Jones. Jones went to her apartment on instructions from his girl friend, who was a friend of the victim and who lived across the street in the same project. His girl friend had called the victim at approximately 10:45 p.m. and had asked if she could store some meat in the victim's refrigerator because she was defrosting her refrigerator. Jones' mission was to deliver the meat. In response to Jones' knock on the door, the victim's older son, 3-year-old Corky, appeared at the door crying but was unable to open it. Jones then opened the door himself and walked into the living room. There he found the victim, lifeless. Near her on the floor were a blanket and a roll of paper towels. Underneath a paper towel was a steak knife bent at a 90-degree angle.

Jones immediately called the police for an ambulance and called his girl friend and told her to come over. He also answered a telephone call from James Chuesberg's mother, Mrs. Daisy Chuesberg, who also resides in the project. The evidence indicates that the victim had called Mrs. Chuesberg's residence a number of times during the evening to talk with her husband, who was watching television, and with Mrs. Chuesberg, who was returning one of these calls. Jones informed her of what happened and within minutes she arrived, along with the victim's husband, two of his friends, and her son John. The victim's husband, Edwin Hiler, immediately asked 3-year-old Corky who did it and Corky said, "Jimmy did it." In response to the same question by Jones' girl friend, Corky repeated over and over, "Jimmy did it. Jimmy stepped on my ma's face."

In admitting this extra-judicial declaration by the victim's son, the juvenile court stated that it would not rely on this evidence alone but would insist on strong corroborative evidence. Other evidence introduced by the state, which the court could and did consider in adjudging Chuesberg to be delinquent because he was guilty of murder included the following:

(a) Evidence from which one could reasonably infer that Chuesberg left his mother's house, which is just a short distance from the victim's house, a short time before the murder was committed. At 10 p.m. the movie that Chuesberg, Edwin Hiler, John Chuesberg, and Mrs. Chuesberg were watching ended. Chuesberg went upstairs shortly thereafter. When his mother, who slept through the movie, awoke sometime after 10, she looked for him upstairs and called out his name but could not find him.

(b) Evidence that at 11:45 p.m. that night Chuesberg arrived at the Norhaven Home (for mentally retarded women), which is three blocks from the McDonough Project, received permission from the night watchman to use the telephone, and made two telephone calls lasting approximately 15 minutes, one of which was to his mother. During one of these calls Chuesberg turned to the night watchman and stated that his cousin had just been stabbed. The night watchman testified that Chuesberg appeared to be in a daze that night.

(c) Evidence that the night watchman at the Norhaven Home discovered shortly after Chuesberg's departure that someone had turned the hose on outside and left the water running.

(d) Evidence that shortly after Chuesberg called his mother, he returned home and that upon his return, he immediately ...


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