Man convicted in New Ulm murder seeks expungement, gun rights restoration

Decades after NU murder conviction

NEW ULM — Despite previous denial, a 50-year-old Clarks Grove man convicted of second-degree murder in the Aug. 21, 1987 stabbing death of William Schaefer in downtown New Ulm, is seeking restoration of firearm rights and the sealing and expungement of his criminal record.

John Nathan Miller, now known as John Nathan Tenneson, has a motion hearing for expungement and firearm rights restoration in Brown County District Court at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

Tenneson, then a 17-year-old, was convicted in the murder of William Schaefer, owner of Jakes Pizza on Minnesota Street in one of the more lurid trials in New Ulm history.

Schaefer, 33, owner and operator of Jake’s Pizza, was found shortly before 11 a.m. in his apartment above the restaurant, as his mother, father and an employee arrived to open for business, read a report in The Journal.

“We came in the back door and his waterbed broke. He was knifed, and they must have knifed the waterbed too,” said William Schaefer’s father, Erwin Schaefer in the story. “It leaked all the water from the ceiling and downstairs into the restaurant. It was all wet. There was still water coming down.”

Erwin Schaefer said his wife called upstairs a couple times, no answer, so she decided to go up there. She saw him lying on the side of the bed, blood all over, read the story.

New Ulm Police said Schaefer was found dead by officers and that he suffered a number of lacerations.

A 1972 New Ulm High School graduate, William Schaefer attended Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato for two years. He bought Jake’s Pizza in 1974, owning and operating it.

On Jan. 19, 1988, Brown County District Court Judge Noah Rosenbloom sentenced 17-year-old John N. Miller to 220 months (18 years, four months) in prison for the stabbing death of Schaefer. He was referenced for prosecution as an adult.

Miller was found guilty of second-degree murder in December 1987. His attorney Pat Moriarty of New Ulm, asked for a 120 month sentence. He argued Miller’s age, the death circumstances, and that he wouldn’t need that long to be rehabilitated. Miller’s defense was that he was defending himself from a homosexual assault from Schaefer at the time of the killing.

Prosecuting attorney James Olson said at the time he could not guess the effectiveness of rehabilitation.

Miller worked as a deliveryman at Jake’s Pizza. A witness said Miller admitted to him that he stabbed Schaefer and that he owed Schaefer $700 and “had to knock him off,” so he bought a knife at the Brown County Fair on Aug. 20, 1987, the day before Schaefer was murdered.

“I am seeking expungement for banking and business purposes, support of my family; coaching and scout leadership positions, hosting foster children; and SBA (Small Business Administration) loan qualification,” Tenneson wrote in his petition.

“I have not had any misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, or felonies since Aug. 21, 1987,” Tenneson added.

His non-testimonial hearing on petition for expungement on July 13, 2009 was denied. A non-testimonial hearing on a petition for gun rights restoration on May 14, 2010 was also denied. A pardon request made in the mid 1990s, submitted by leter, without legal assistance, hearing or meeting, was denied.

“I was convicted of an offense that does not qualify for expungement under Minn. State 609A.02, subd. 3, but I have rehabilitated myself. The benefit to me outweighs the disadvantage to the public and the burden on the court,” read Tenneson’s latest petition.

“I have become religious, re-established family relationships, got married, had eight children, owned and operated three businesses,” read the petition.

“I had a very difficult childhood, with numerous challenges. I was abused by the individual whose death I was involved with,” read Tenneson’s petition.

In addition, the petition reads there is no current or prior order for protection, restraining order, or other order prohibiting him from contacting victims.

“The BCA objects to the petition. The Petitioner is not eligible for expungement because the Petitioner’s offense is not one that is included in the list of eligible offenses under Minnesota Statutes, Section 609A.02, subd. 3(b),” read a March 16, 2021 letter to the Brown County Court Administrator from Minnesota Justice Information Services Deputy Superintendent Dana Gotz.

Three victim impact statements regarding the hearing were filed in Brown County District Court on May 10. Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson said he opposes the petition.

(Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@



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