Christopher Kruse declared not guilty
WORTHINGTON – Not guilty. That is the verdict returned by the jury in Nobles County District Court on Thursday in the Christopher Kruse trial. Kruse was on trial for almost two weeks for a first-degree murder charge relating to the death of his wife Janette Pigman-Kruse.
The jury deliberated for several hours Wednesday and came back Thursday to continue the process, finally arriving at a verdict at approximately 7 p.m.
Tears, happy exhales of relief and subdued calls of joy in the courtroom gave way to joyous laughter in the hallways of the Prairie Justice Center, where family, friends and supporters had gathered to hear the verdict.
Kruse was declared not guilty of both first- and second-degree murder by a jury who deliberated about 11 hours over an evening and a day.
Kruse was indicted by a grand jury in March 2019 years after the August 19, 2015 murder of his wife. He called 911 shortly after 2:30 a.m. that morning and told dispatch someone had come into their home and shot his wife in the chest while they were sleeping at their home in Brewster.
The jury had a hard task. After listening to the testimony of 40 witnesses, about six hours of video interviews between law enforcement and Kruse, looking at evidence and photos and learning about a variety of forensic science, their deliberation began late Wednesday afternoon.
To consider were eight full days of testimony, several hours of closing arguments, and a man’s fate.
Over a course of law enforcement interviews, there were inconsistencies in statements by Kruse, which the prosecution contended was a sign of guilt. The defense, however, saw the changes as minor and said they were the result of a man stunned by events and stricken at the loss of his wife.
Forensic experts from both the Minnesota BCA and Noedel Scientific testified about the Remington 870 Express found in Kruse’s shop and the two shot shells found in the doorway of the Kruse bedroom. The BCA found they were a match, but Matthew Noedel found the results inconclusive.
Also under contention between the prosecution and defense was Kruse’s claim that he was in the bed when his wife was shot. The state claims there is no way he was there, pointing out blood spatter and bullet trajectory. The defense insisted there was plenty of room in the bed for the first shot to miss Kruse when it went through pillows, the headboard and the wall.
Chris Kruse walked down the hallway shortly after the verdict with a look of exhaustion and relief on his face, as supporters congratulated him.
The question of who shot and killed Janette Pigman-Kruse has not been answered.