Juvenile charged with murder in artist's death

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Nearly four years later, a murder charge has been filed against a young man in the murder of artist and community activist Susan Spiller, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

While the man is now 18 years old, he was 14 at the time of Spiller’s death in her north Minneapolis home. As a result, the proceedings against him must occur in juvenile court and his name remains private, said Tom Arneson, the managing attorney for the Juvenile Prosecution Division of the county attorney’s office.

In a joint news conference with Minneapolis Police and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to announce the charges, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey praised the police efforts, saying “our officers are dogged,” in their investigations of homicides.

Minneapolis Police Chief Madaria Arradondo said that Spiller was an artist and a community activist and her death shook the neighborhood but “a team of dedicated homicide investigators never lost their focus,” and finally developed a suspect.

The break came when unidentified fingerprints from the murder scene were found to match the suspect's fingerprints, Arneson said. That did not happen until recently when the suspect's fingerprints were obtained in an unrelated case.

Based on that evidence, other evidence developed in the days right after the murder and follow-up investigation in the past couple of weeks, “we felt confident that we had sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Arneson said. The young man was arrested Monday and is being held at the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center.

Because the suspect was 14 years old at the time of the murder, the proceedings, including an initial hearing Tuesday afternoon, are being held in juvenile court. They will remain private unless a judge orders that he be certified to stand trial as an adult, Arneson said.

A 14-year-old can be certified to stand trial as an adult for a significant crime, like a murder, if the judge finds by “clear and convincing evidence that public safety is not served by keeping the suspect in juvenile court,” Arneson said. That would follow a hearing where the prosecutors would lay out the evidence for certification and the defense attorney would rebut the evidence. The county attorney’s office has asked for adult certification.

“The county attorney’s office would like to commend the Minneapolis Police Department on their commitment, professionalism and dedication in this investigation,” Arneson said.