The murder trial for Scott Francis Engelbrecht, 60, of St. James, began Monday afternoon at the Brown County Courthouse. Within the first two days, Engelbrecht's defense claimed his stepdaughter, Rachel Linder, 43, shot his wife, Joyce Engelbrecht, 67. A cellmate later testified Scott confessed to the murders with a, "Heck yeah."
On Monday, prosecutor Erin R. Eldridge from the Minnesota Attorney General's Office said, "This is a case about control, and this is a case of murder."
After her opening statement followed the initially filed complaint document, defense attorney Ryan Drea presented a different account for June 16, 2018. Scott had been sick for days and couldn't wait to get home to get some sleep. Joyce was angry that he just wanted to go to bed on their 17th wedding anniversary. Scott went away to the bedroom to look for the card he had gotten for Joyce, but he couldn't find it. Joyce came to the bedroom and realized Scott was sick, prompting them to make up.
Scott had been sleeping before Rachel's son, Dillion Mathias, now 21, shook him awake with, "Mom shot grandma." Before Scott exited the bedroom, Mathias stopped him and handed over the rifle and ammunition, saying, "You might need this."
Scott found Joyce on the living room floor with a shot to the head. Rachel was standing in the kitchen before she grabbed a pistol from the top of the refrigerator and ran out. Scott followed after Rachel, wanting to disarm her. She didn't respond to his first warning shot. She fell on the neighbor's porch steps after the second. She wasn't moving, and Scott thought, "Is this an act?" He stumbled as he moved closer, and the gun accidentally went off another time.
"The events of June 16, 2018," said Drea, "were not intentional murder. They were not premeditated murder. They were a tragedy."
The state called Mathias to testify, where he described Scott and Joyce's relationship as "toxic." As the state questioned him closer to the day of the murders, he'd close his eyes hard for a moment before continuing to talk slower.
Mathias recalled hearing a thud five to ten minutes after he had settled in his room in the basement. He hadn't heard any gunshots. He listened to his mother, Rachel yell, "You shot her, you bastard!" Hearing fear and shock in Rachel's voice provoked him to grab his taser and head upstairs.
Mathias saw Joyce on the living room floor with "blood everywhere." Scott was pointing the gun at Rachel as she stood in the kitchen, and Mathias yelled to get his attention. Scott turned the gun on him and could've surely shot him if he wanted to, according to Mathias. Mathias and Rachel yelled at each other to run. He ran back to the basement, locked himself in the bathroom, and called 911.
The state replayed the original call for the jury, where Mathias reported Scott shot his grandmother.
"He's coming for me and my mom," he said to the dispatch. "He trying to get my mom somewhere. Please hurry."
After help arrived, Mathias tried getting in contact with Rachel. He called her, but it just kept ringing and ringing. Mathias couldn't hold back tears as he described finding his mother two houses down on, laying on porch steps. While the police tried to contain the crime scene, a light reflection caught his eye. He identified the features of Rachel's jeans.
"I didn't have to get too close to know it was her," Mathias said.
Scott's defense brought attention to Mathia's criminal record and his inheritance after Joyce and Rachel's death. Mathias answered no to being a rich man now, and no to shooting his grandmother to inherit the estate.
St. James officer Jonathan LeClaire was the first at the scene, arriving in under two minutes. He testified Scott answered either "I shot her" or "I did it" when he asked what was going on.
The prosecutors published LaClaire's first few minutes on the scene for the jury through audio captured by the microphone on his uniform. Scott's claimed confession couldn't be heard.
On Tuesday, neighbor Earl Augst testified he was outside of his home when he heard high pitch yelling from a female. It went on for longer than expected before he heard what sounded like a screen door shutting loudly.
Ross Thomas from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension showed the jury evidence collected at the crime scene, including a .22 caliber rifle bullet fragments next to Linder's body, ammunition on a dresser in Scott and Joyce's bedroom, and two guns laid out on the bed. One firearm remained in its casing, the covering for the second was partially removed, and a cloth case for a long gun was empty.
James Matthews testified Linder and him were high school sweethearts and had spent time together on June 16 in the early afternoon before she left to visit Joyce. She texted him a few hours later that Scott had forgotten his wedding anniversary. Matthews had one missed called from Rachel after her final text.
Kelly Mills Ramsey County Medical Examiner described Rachel's injuries and her conclusion for listing the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds and the matter as a homicide. The same bullet that caused an entry and exit wound on Rachel's left forearm struck her forehead but didn't pass the skull. The second injury was an entry wound to Rachel's right temple. There was soot surrounding the wound, indicating the bullet was fired from less than 6 inches away. The third injury was a bullet graze on Linder's back. Mills stated she found no stippling on Linder's skin to indicate a gun had been shot around her hands.
Bureau of Criminal Apprehension homicide investigator Micheal Anderson said Scott claimed during three interviews that he couldn't remember what had happened. At one point, he couldn't recall being married or knowing who Dillion was. As the investigators told him what had happened, he didn't deny anything. He instead said, "I believe you." When asked if he regretted it, Scott said, "Of course. I hurt the most important thing in my life."
James Matthew's daughter, Ashley Schwab, testified she witnessed Scott and Joyce always fighting over money because Joyce would help others by giving them money, specifically Rachel. According to the state's offer of proof filed on Oct. 29, Schwab said, about six months before the murders, she was dropping off her daughter at the Engelbrecht home. Scott told Schwab Rachel had done something, which made him angry. Scott called Rachel bad names and said Rachel was worthless and deserved to die. Scott also said Rachel needed to stop running to her mother for money, and he wished he had gotten rid of Rachel a long time ago.
Eight weeks preceding the murders, Schwab also said she witnessed Scott becoming more short-tempered. Scott would snap at Joyce over small things. He'd also direct his anger towards Mathias, calling him worthless and a drug addict, and stating that he hated him. Joyce also told Schwab that things had happened that made her a little nervous about what Scott would do to her.
The last witness on Tuesday was David Unde, who claimed Scott told him about the June 16 murders. When previously cellmates, Unde asked Scott if he shot Joyce and Linder, and Scott answered, "Heck yeah."
Unde testified Scott's account of the events included a "heated" argument with Joyce, shotting Joyce at close range with a .22 caliber rifle, and shotting Linder multiple times to make sure "he got her."
Scott discussed three different defenses with Unde he planned to use. The first was he took cold medicine and couldn't remember anything. Unde told him that wouldn't work if he hadn't provided a DNA sample. The second defense was shooting Linder in self-defense for shooting Joyce. The third defense was Dillion shot Linder and Joyce because he didn't get his way.
Unde claimed Scott was tired of Joyce and Linder taking his money. Scott thought Rachel was old enough to take care of herself. Scott canceled a one million insurance policy so no one would receive anything because he was tired of people taking from him. Scott had also mentioned having a girlfriend for about a year. Unde stated he wasn't receiving any special treatment for testifying.
Engelbrecht is charged with two counts of first-degree murder–premeditated, two counts of second-degree murder–intent and fifth-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. The jury received the case around 4 p.m. on Thursday and will reach a verdict late Thursday or early Friday.