NU murder convict has petitions denied

Miller case dates back to 1987

NEW ULM — A 51-year-old former New Ulm man’s petitions to expunge a second-degree murder conviction and restore his firearm rights were denied by Brown County District Court Judge Robert Docherty on July 16.

John Nathan Miller, now known as John Nathan Tenneson of Clarks Grove, was convicted in the Aug. 21, 1987 stabbing death of William “Billy” Schaefer in downtown New Ulm.

A three-hour online motion hearing regarding the petitions held May 19, 2021 included three victim impact statements.

Tenneson’s petitions were opposed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson.

Tenneson, 17, at the time of the murder, admitted he was convicted of an offense that does not qualify for expungement under Minnesota Statute 609A.02, subd. 3, but he has rehabilitated himself.

“The benefit to me out-weights the disadvantage to the public, and the burden on the court,” read Tenneson’s petition.

“I have become religious, re-established family relationships, got married, have eight children, owned and operated three businesses. I had a very difficult childhood with numerous challenges,” read the petition.

Tenneson testified he wants to be involved in his children’s activities such as Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, youth athletics, and hunting. He is able to hunt with a bow.

His wife testified she is unable to operate a daycare out of their home due to Tenneson’s criminal record.

Tenneson had a number of character witnesses supporting his petitions including Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag and Freeborn County Deputy Sheriff Todd Earl, who described Tenneson as “respectful and responsible.”

Tenneson said he was introduced to cocaine by the victim, had been threatened with a gun by the victim, was using drugs and alcohol; and felt threatened.

The State contended Tenneson planned the murder to get out of a drug debt.

In his findings of act and conclusions of law, Docherty wrote that Tenneson “has not put forth a compelling reason for the expungement beyond difficulties in his personal life.”

“On balance, although (Tenneson) certainly has made great progress from where he was 34 years ago, factors against the petition outweigh the factors supporting the petition. There is no particularly compelling reason to grant the petition,” wrote Docherty.

Regarding Tenneson’s firearm rights, Docherty wrote “Petitioner already hunts with his children using a bow. His children’s inability to keep guns in the home is inconvenient, but not good cause. The children can learn responsible gun ownership and use from someone other than Petitioner…Petitioner has not shown good cause to restore his right to possess firearms.”


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