Stifled sobs echoed off the walls Thursday inside a St. Croix County courtroom as Judge Scott Needham read aloud the jury’s verdict — Kayle A. Fleischauer, the New Richmond man on trial for killing his son, was guilty of second-degree reckless homicide.
The 43-year-old Fleischauer sat still, staring forward as the verdict was read and was taken into custody at the end of the proceedings.
Defense attorney Earl Gray argued his client should remain free on bond pending sentencing, saying Fleischauer was not a risk to flee since it was his mother’s money put up for bail.
Needham said bond hinges on presumption of innocence and a guilty verdict revoked that presumption.
The second-degree reckless homicide charge is punishable by up to 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The maximum sentence allows for up to 15 years in prison and 10 years on extended supervision.
“We are extremely pleased with the jury’s verdict,” said Erica Ellenwood, assistant district attorney, after court was adjourned.
Shortly after 4 a.m. April 14, 2018, authorities received the call of a male with a gunshot wound to the head. They arrived at the rural New Richmond residence to find 19-year-old Chase A. Fleischauer unresponsive on the floor of the upper level.
Somer Johnson-Fleischauer was the trial’s first witness June 3.
“I could hear yelling and movement upstairs,” Johnson-Fleischauer said of the early morning hours of April 14, 2018. She described a verbal exchange between her father and brother.
Kayle Fleischauer testified he went downstairs with his 19-year-old son and wrestled on the tile floor before returning upstairs and then going to bed.
But Robert Kaiser Jr., a state assistant attorney general, pointed to a video taken of the home the morning of the incident that he said showed no signs of any wrestling match downstairs.
Kayle Fleischauer also said he noticed no injuries on his son before he went to bed sometime between 2:30 and 3 a.m., but blood was found on the bottom of Chase Fleischauer’s socks indicating he stood or walked on blood already on the floor. Prosecutors said tests revealed it was his own blood on the socks.
According to Dr. Kelly Mills with the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office and her boss, Ramsey County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Michael McGee, Chase Fleischauer would not have been able to move after he sustained the gunshot to the head.
Gray argued that alcohol can mask pain, and he maintained injuries, which may have bled, were caused during a wrestling match.
Initial charging documents stated the gun was fired approximately 18 inches from Chase Fleischauer’s head.
Throughout the trial, Gray raised questions as to the validity of the state’s case. He focused on inconsistencies between St. Croix County sheriff’s office Investigator Jim Mikla’s claim in his report of the gun’s distance from Chase Fleischauer’s head and matching results from test-fire patterns.
Evidence stated subsequent test firings were done at 3, 6 and 9 inches.
“What happened to the 18 inches?” Gray said during closing arguments.
Gray argued Mikla knew a distance of 18 inches would eliminate the possibility of a self-inflicted wound.
“So he’s making it up,” Gray told the jury.
Mills, who performed the autopsy, said test firing results from 6 inches most closely resembled the gunpowder stippling pattern on Chase Fleischauer’s head, but the lack of soot found in the wound more closely resembled the test from 9 inches.
Ellenwood said during a closing rebuttal that the gun usually falls at the feet of self-inflicted gunshot victims. The gun was found 10 feet from the victim.
Mills, in her autopsy report, noted a skull fracture and petechiae — small dots on the skin caused from bleeding capillaries that can be a sign of strangulation — preceded the gunshot that killed Chase Fleischauer.