MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The suspect in the disappearance of a 25-year-old Wright County man appeared in court Monday while the victim’s family and friends held a prayer vigil outside.
Family, friends and law enforcement searched for weeks last fall for any signs of the missing Howard Lake man, 25-year-old Christopher Rossing.
It was while searching some farm fields across the road from where Robert Nuttall and his girlfriend, Gwen Butcher lived, that burned bone fragments were recovered.
Nuttal and Butcher were both arrested and charged on probable cause kidnapping. But without a positive identification of those fragments or the recovery of Rossing’s body, no murder charges can be filed.
“The message is justice for Christopher so it gets out to the public,” Sue Tighe, a friend of Rossing, said.
On Monday, Tighe joined Rossing’s family and friends as they gathered in prayer and silent protest outside the Wright County Courthouse.
Inside, Judge Geoff Tenney was holding a contested omnibus hearing to allow prosecution and defense to debate whether or not probable cause exists to warrant putting Nuttall on trial.
“It’s unfortunate the family has to go through this at this time,” said another of Rossing’s friends, Samantha Schmalz.
Nuttall’s attorney used much of the time in court arguing that his client’s 5-hour interrogation with Wright County investigators went too far. He further explained that at several points during that police interview Nuttall asked for an attorney under his Miranda rights.
But the detective who took the stand, Andy Fashant, told Judge Geoffrey Tenney that “(Nuttall) did appear to waive his Miranda warning several times … he was very unclear and purposely so.”
In addition, Nuttall is challenging the merits of an Oct. 13 search warrant of Nuttall’s home and property near Hutchinson. That search warrant was issued immediately after a private search party discovered the initial bone fragments. According to the defense, that calls into question if that evidence can be admitted at trial.
“I want everybody for the family’s sake to get what they deserve, for taking a 25-year-old man’s life, who didn’t deserve it,” Schmalz said.
Nuttall is demanding a speedy trial. The judge told attorneys to prepare for jury selection to begin Feb. 17, 2015.