Guilty of first-degree murder, Ryan David Petersen of Woodbury has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Judge William Leary decided a verdict and sentencing in the 37-year-old Woodbury man’s case Friday in Ramsey County District Court, adding guilty verdicts for second-degree murder with intent, felony possession of a firearm, and probation violation.
Petersen, who has been convicted of five prior felonies and jailed for a half-year on murder charges, will also concurrently serve a 60-month prison sentence for possession of a firearm. He was committed to Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud.
On April 7, after firing his lawyer in an increasingly agitated text message exchange, Petersen went to the law firm North Star Criminal Defense, located above the W.A. Frost and Company restaurant in St. Paul, and shot Chase Passauer, 23, of Hastings eight times.
Petersen, owner of Eastside Grillz in St. Paul, had told attorney Dan Adkins that he wanted back his money and his case file, but upon arrival at the law office Petersen drew his .40 Smith and Wesson semiautomatic handgun from where it had been tucked in his pants and fired.
Passauer, a law clerk, died alone while seated at his desk.
Victim statements followed the verdict and preceded the sentencing. Some of Passauer’s family and friends spoke about his kindness, charisma, responsibility, and motivation.
“The world was a better place with Chase in it,” his father, Chris Passauer, said in a statement read by prosecutor Richard Dusterhoft.
He always thought he was right, always arguing his positions, and that quality would have made him a good lawyer, Chris Passauer said.
Dusterhoft paused after reading “all the lasts” between Chris Passauer and his son.
“I’ll never get to hear him say, ‘I love you, Dad,’” Dusterhoft read on behalf of Chris Passauer. “Chase was a man with a great future.”
Passauer is a graduate of Hastings High School who started taking college-level courses as a sophomore. He graduated with honors, as well as two bachelor’s degrees -- in philosophy and political science -- from the University of Minnesota in 2014. Passauer was the first member of his family to get a four-year degree, Chris Passauer said.
Passauer’s sister Chelsea Passauer said that at age 13 her younger brother decided he wanted to be a lawyer.
“He was destined for greatness,” she told the judge, in a courtroom with more than 55 family, friends and supporters in the audience.
Passauer was a constant friend and protector, Chelsea Passauer said. He always was there for his family and friends, and he made his mother and sister feel special, even when they moved states away, she said. “I will never have another brother.”
Anthony Trezea’s told the court Passauer was going to be best man soon, and that they had been planning a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildernesss at the time of Passauer’s death. Passauer, Trezea’s best friend, had traveled all over the U.S. to visit Trezea.
Chris Cline knew Passauer well from their days of golfing together.
“A lot of honesty happens,” Cline said of a four-hour round of golf.
He was passionate about Petersen’s defense, Cline said.
“A monster” killed Passauer, Chelsea Passauer said. “My world stopped that day, and it never will be the same.”
“The initial impact was fear, anger, confusion,” Cline said. “I was searching for answers and I soon realized that wouldn’t be the case. It was an act of senseless violence by a total and complete coward.”
Cline promised there would never be closure. While Passauer will always be remembered and celebrated, Cline said. “Petersen will spend the rest of his life being forgotten.”
Leary told each victim, “Sorry for your loss.”
Then he turned to Petersen: “No person is beyond redemption. That includes you.”
Leary urged Petersen to do what he can to make up for his heinous act of murder.
“We are very pleased with the judge’s ruling against the defendant who so brutally took the life of a promising young man,” Ramsey County attorney John Choi said in a statement. “I want to thank the prosecution team, as well as the St. Paul police investigators for their hard work to bring justice to the victim’s family, friends and our community.”