MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A jury has decided the fate of a Chisago County man accused of giving his ex-girlfriend drugs that led to her death.
Aaron Schnagl was convicted early Friday evening of third-degree murder for the December 2012 death of Danielle Jelinek.
However, the jury did not believe that Schnagl tried to conceal her body.
Authorities believed the 27-year-old Oakdale woman overdosed on drugs and Schnagl dumped her body in a pond, which was found five months later.
The jury was allowed to deliberate as long as they wanted on Friday, but reached a verdict earlier than expected.
Family and friends on both sides walked into the courthouse to hear final arguments in the four-week trial.
Prosecutors described Schnagl as a drug dealer, saying “for the defendant, the life of Danielle Jelinek was the cost of doing business.”
The state argued that business was threatened when Jelinek overdosed at Schnagl’s home. They wanted the jury to believe Schnagl dumped her body in a nearby pond and tried to cover up the crime, saying he “did what he had to do to protect his business.”
Yet the defense argued Jelinek wandered off in the night, and authorities relied on inconsistent evidence and unreliable witnesses who changed their stories.
“They cherry picked where this cocaine came from,” Melvin Welch, Schnagl’s attorney, said.
The defense has argued from the beginning that the drugs came from a third party. Schnagl’s attorney pointed out in the closing statements that that man later became an important witness for the prosecution.
“They jumped to conclusions and gave immunity to the guy who got the cocaine,” Welch said.
Schnagl’s defense attorney tried to add a lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter. It would have been the difference of eight years in prison, but in the end the judge denied that attempt, leaving jurors to deliberate a third-degree homicide charge.
Schnagl still faces sentencing, and could get up to 12 years in prison.