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December 22, 1989


Appeal from Sherburne County District Court, Hon. Kim R. Johnson, Judge.

Heard, considered and decided by the court en banc. Coyne, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coyne

1. Evidence of intent and premeditation and that defendant knew the nature of his act and that it was wrong is sufficient to sustain verdict that defendant was guilty of murder in the first degree.

2. When a suspect who is in custody "arguably" invokes the right to counsel, all questioning by the police must cease except to "clarify the earlier comment and to ascertain the accused's desires respecting the aid of counsel." Under the circumstances of this case any possible error in the admission of defendant's confession was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.


COYNE, Justice.

Defendant Timothy Michael Erickson was convicted of first degree murder, Minn. Stat. 609.185(1988), and sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal from his conviction for the murder notoriously known as "the vampire murder of St. Cloud," defendant contends that (1) he proved he was so intoxicated that he could not form the requisite statutory intent or premeditation; (2) he proved by a preponderance of the evidence that mental illness had rendered him incapable of knowing the nature of his act or its wrongfulness; and (3) the trial court erroneously admitted his confession, which was coerced and taken in violation of his right to counsel. We affirm the conviction.

Defendant, then 18 years of age, and his 19-year-old brother, Mark, shared an apartment. From time to time the brothers sheltered homeless or runaway teenagers, and in March 1988, four other teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 years, two of them girls, were staying there. Sometime around March 15, defendant, Mark, the resident teenagers, Bill Benedict, and three other 15-year-old boys, talked about forming a vampire cult. Apparently, defendant became fascinated with the subject after watching a movie about teenage vampires, and he began asking Benedict about the occult. Most of the witnesses said they thought then that defendant was merely joking about forming a vampire cult.

On March 21, 1988, seven of the young men, including both Erickson brothers and Donald Gall, the victim, decided to go camping in Riverside Park near St. Cloud. At about 11:30 that evening, Gall arrived at the Erickson apartment "sloppy drunk"; before they left for their outing he also smoked marijuana. As the group prepared to leave, Benedict became uneasy and left the party. About 1:00 a.m. the remaining six set off for the campsite. Defendant brought a case of beer, some marijuana, and Aphedrin, an over-the-counter stimulant; one of the group brought hot dogs; a 15-year-old brought defendant's fixed-blade hunting knife and was heard to mention to defendant something about the "first victim."

For a couple of hours the group sat around their campfire near the edge of the frozen river and drank beer, smoked marijuana, ate hot dogs, and talked about women, hunting, drugs, jail and motorcycles. At about 4:30 a.m., one of the men left because he was cold and tired, and Gall lay down near the fire. After Gall fell asleep, the four remaining campers went into the woods where defendant suggested that they kill Gall and drink his blood. He told the others that they could wake Gall and defendant would kill him with the knife that the 15-year-old had brought. Mark Erickson refused to participate in the plan.

As the group returned to the campfire, defendant pulled his knife from its sheath and approached Gall. Gall suddenly awoke. Defendant told Gall they would keep the fire going and that he should go back to sleep. The group returned to the woods to revise their plan. This time the defendant told the others that he would club Gall while he slept and that the others should kick him. Defendant's brother again refused to participate in the plan to murder.

The group returned to the campfire, and defendant clubbed Gall over the head with a tree branch; then while the other two kicked Gall, defendant continued to beat him with the tree branch. After Gall lost consciousness, defendant took his knife from the 15-year-old, pulled Gall's head into the air, and slit his throat. Gall bled to death. Defendant and his two accomplices then licked Gall's blood from their hands. Next they removed Gall's leather jacket and his wristwatch, lifted his wallet, and emptied his pockets. When the defendant announced, "We've got to get rid of the body," the three assailants pushed Gall's body off the river ice into open water.

As the sun rose the group cleaned the campsite. Defendant put his log club into the campfire. Taking a different route home to avoid detection, the group stopped at a convenience store to buy cigarettes with money taken from Gall.

Following the return home, defendant told both of the girls who were staying with the Erickson brothers that he had killed Gall by beating him with a log and stabbing him with a knife and that he had thrown Gall's body into the river. Defendant bragged that he had drunk Gall's blood and licked the blood from his hands. Gall's ...

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