Jury finds Engelbrecht guilty on all counts
NEW ULM — After nearly four hours of deliberation Thursday, a Brown County jury of nine women and three men found Scott F. Engelbrecht of St. James guilty on all five counts for murdering his wife and step daughter and assaulting his step grandson June 16, 2018.
Scott Engelbrecht, 60, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree felony premeditated murder, two second-degree murder with intent charges, and a second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon charge.
He remains in Brown County Jail custody. His $4 million bail was revoked. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered. A sentencing date will be determined later.
The two-week jury trial was moved from Watonwan to Brown County after Judge Stephen J. Ferrazzano II granted a change of venue. Engelbrecht’s lawyers argued that extensive media coverage and social media comments would make it hard to find unbiased jurors in Watonwan County.
Scott Engelbrecht was found to have fatally shot his wife Joyce A. Engelbrecht during an argument in their home on June 16, 2018. He then followed his step daughter Rachel Linder outside and shot her to death in front of a neighbor’s front door, according to court documents and testimony.
Scott Engelbrecht then pointed a .22 caliber rifle at his step grandson Dillion Mathias, who ran into the basement, locked himself in a bathroom and called 911.
After the verdict was read Thursday night, Joyce Engelbrecht’s sister Lin Hendricksen of Truman talked about it.
“I’m more than happy. My sister finally got her justice. He (Scott Engelbrecht) lied constantly. He got what he deserved. Justice prevailed. We’ve waited so long for this. My sister lost her life for helping people out.”
Joyce Engelbrecht’s brother Rick Andrew of St. James was visibly emotional after the verdict was read but he didn’t wish to talk.
“He’s had seven strokes. Joyce did everything for him. He’s wearing her ashes (in a small container) around his neck. That’s all we have left of her,” Hendricksen said.
Watonwan County Attorney Steve Lindee smiled after the jury trial.
“I’m happy with the verdict. I think it was just. The Attorney General’s Office did a great job. I appreciate it,” Lindee said.
In her closing argument, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Erin Rivka Eldridge said the case is about control. Scott Engelbrecht was fed up with his family, so he shot and killed his wife and step daughter on his 17th wedding anniversary with a .22-caliber rifle, Eldridge said.
Scott Engelbrecht testified his wife cooked him a special dinner but he said he wasn’t hungry and wanted to sleep, and an argument began.
Eldridge said the murder was premeditated. Engelbrecht had ammunition in his home that he usually didn’t keep in the house where the murder took place. He earlier testified that he kept his ammunition in another house he owned in St. James.
The grandson, Mathias, testified he heard a loud thud when his grandmother fell on the floor after she was shot, and that he heard his mother say, “you shot her, you bastard,” to Scott Engelbrecht.
Mathias testified he went upstairs and saw Scott Engelbrecht holding a rifle with his finger on the trigger. Mathias then saw Scott Engelbrecht turn the gun on Mathias before Mathias ran away and told his mother to run and not stop, before calling 911 from the basement.
Scott Engelbrecht gave a different version of events. He testified Mathias woke him up, said his mother shot and killed his grandmother and gave him a rifle to protect the neighborhood from his step daughter who had a 9mm handgun on a holster.
Scott Engelbrecht testified he fired a couple of warning shots towards Linder before an old injury reoccurred, causing him to fall and his rifle to fire again. One bullet entered and exited one of Linder’s arms but didn’t penetrate her skull. Another bullet fired at very close range entered her skull and fragmented.
Eldridge said Linder’s murder was pre-meditated because Scott Engelbrecht “stalked” her, hiding behind neighborhood trees before shooting her in the back, then in the head.
“We have planning, preparation and a motive,” Eldridge said. “Engelbrecht shot his wife from only a few feet away, then stepped in her blood that got on his socks. The blood matched Joyce’s.”
In a yet different version of events, Assistant State Public Defender Scott Bergeson of Minneapolis said Mathias confessed to shooting his grandmother. Bergeson indicated this was done to collect her estate.
“There’s a lot of questions here,” Bergeson said. “It’s hard to believe you’d shoot a loved one after 17 years of marriage. Dillion admitted he had a financial interest. His plan was to kill his grandma, make it look like his (step) grandpa did it, then Easy Street.”
In a rebuttal, Eldridge told the jury to rely on common sense.
“Mathias mis-spoke when he confessed to shooting his grandma. People mis-speak. I’ve done it, too,” Eldridge said.
“It’s much harder to believe someone would go out and defend the neighborhood, fire warning shots, trip and fall and accidentally shoot Rachel Linder in the head. This is beyond all possible doubt,” Eldridge said. “The experts we put on this case make sense. It was the defendant, not Mathias, all along. (Scott Engelbrecht) talked about the case in jail, bragging that he killed two women (according to earlier testimony by David Uhde).”
Mayo Clinic Rochester neurology Dr. Jennifer Fugate testified Wednesday that Joyce Engelbrecht arrived at Mayo in a coma, did not have brain stem reflexes, had brain bleeding and compression.
“The medical surgery team determined there was nothing medically we could do to improve her condition,” Fugate testified. “We did a brain death exam, then a detailed exam. She was pronounced clinically brain dead.”
St. James police testified they found Scott Engelbrecht near a neighbor’s residence with the rifle, ordered him to put it down, which he did, leaning it against a tree.
Police testified Scott Engelbrecht said something to the effect of “I did it, I shot her” before he unloaded a pocket full of bullets in a driveway and was arrested.
Fritz Busch can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.