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Friends, experts testify at jury trial

NEW ULM — Family friends and expert witnesses testified in Brown County District Court Tuesday at the jury trial for a 60-year-old St. James man accused of murdering his wife and step daughter and assaulting his step grandson with a dangerous weapon.

Scott F. Engelbrecht allegedly fatally shot his wife Joyce Engelbrecht, 67, during a June 16, 2018, argument on their wedding anniversary in their home. He then allegedly followed his stepdaughter, Rachel Linder, 43, outside and shot her to death.

Engelbrecht faces two felony first-degree premeditated murder charges, two counts of second-degree murder with intent and felony second-degree assault of his stepgrandson Dillion Mathias. He remains in Brown County Jail custody. His bail was set at $4 million.

Engelbrecht’s childhood friend, David Uhde, in state custody with three felony first-degree DWI convictions, testified that he had daily contact with Scott Engelbrecht from September to December 2018.

“I asked him if he did it, and he said ‘heck yeah,’ Uhde testified. “He said the argument got heated before he shot his wife a few times at close range. Then he shot Rachel (Linder) as she ran away.”

Uhde said Engelbrecht told him he had a number of defenses, including taking a cold medication and sleeping medication prescribed to his wife; that Rachel shot her mom and he shot her to defend his family; and that Dillion shot them both because he wasn’t getting his way.

“He (Engelbrecht) said he shot them both because he was tired of Joyce giving his money away after he worked hard all his life for it,” Uhde testified. “He said there was a $1 million life insurance policy he cancelled a few weeks before the incident because if anything happened, nobody would get the money because he was done with everybody taking it from him.”

State’s witness Ashley Schwab testified that Joyce was a good friend of the family who watched her daughter several times a week, and Linder came to Schwab’s farm to hang out with her dad (James Matthews, who earlier testified that he and Linder were high school sweethearts that reunited in recent years).

“Joyce was like a mother to me. We were very close,” Schwab testified. “She was very, very close to my daughter. Joyce and Scott argued frequently about her being so kind, giving money to everybody, helping people out.”

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Special Agent Micheal Anderson of Mankato testified he interviewed Engelbrecht several times right after the two women died and got different responses at different times.

“He said he had a stressful relationship with Joyce, who took care of his frail father,” Anderson testified. “After we told him Joyce and Rachel died, he cried, was distraught and said ‘of course I’m sorry.'”

Anderson said he collected DNA samples at the Engelbrecht residence and submitted them to the BCA crime lab in St. Paul.

In other testimony, BCA Forensic Crime Scene Leader Ross Thomas said the .22-caliber rifle seized near Engelbrecht’s home by law enforcement was processed at the BCA crime lab along with five bullets found on a driveway that police earlier testified that Engelbrecht emptied in a driveway after the incident.

Ramsey County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Kelly Mills testified that Linder’s wounds were consistent with a .22-caliber rifle that was seized in the backyard of Engelbrecht’s neighbor after she was found shot to death near the front door of a nearby residence.

Matthews, who owns a trucking firm, testified that he visited Linder every couple of weeks over the past three and a half years when he wasn’t on the road. He referred to Joyce Engelbrecht as “mom.”

The jury trial continues at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Brown County District Courtroom.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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