UPDATE: Judge will decide Petersen murder case Friday


Attorneys' closing arguments in the first-degree murder trial of Woodbury resident Ryan David Petersen centered around premeditation Wednesday.

Ramsey County District Court Judge William Leary adjourned the court until 9 a.m. Friday, taking the issue under advisement.

In addition to first-degree murder Petersen, 37, who took the witness stand Tuesday, faces charges of second-degree murder and felony possession of a firearm.

According to findings of fact agreed upon by the defense and prosecution in the case, on April 7 Petersen shot Chase Passauer, a 23-year-old law clerk from Hastings, eight times in a St. Paul law office.

He disposed of the weapon in Bone Lake at a cabin near Milltown, Wis., where authorities recovered it.

Kari Schill of Woodbury, the mother of Petersen's three children and the prosecution's key witness, testified Tuesday that "the defendant said he was going to shoot his lawyer in the head," Ramsey County prosecutor Richard Dusterhoft recalled in his closing statements Wednesday.

Defense attorney Gary Wolf argued that, if — for the sake of argument — Petersen had said that, Schill expressed no concern because "she was used to crazy outbursts, crazy statements" on which Petersen didn't act. She was an enabler, Wolf said, who would do anything for her children, especially stay out of jail for any aiding and abetting.

The defense and prosecution discredited each other's witnesses, namely Schill and Petersen.

Wolf said Petersen and his attorneys met and then told the judge Wednesday that they agreed that the prosecution had proven second-degree murder and felony possession of a firearm, but had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the shooting was premeditated.

"He's not a man that planned, considered, premeditated. He's not capable," Wolf said of Petersen. "There was no rational basis for the crime."

Petersen leads a troubled existence, emotionally disturbed and angry, Wolf said.

He was born in an institution, his mother was institutionalized, he was adopted, five times he committed felonies and recovered, then he was repeatedly charged with driving while intoxicated, Wolf said.

"One of those DWIs, when the police went to rouse him, before he knew who was there, he struck a female police officer," Wolf said of pending felony assault charges. "That's how distraught he was. ... He was getting angrier and angrier, and he was too proud to get help."

He was emotionally impulsive, "not built to plan things," Wolf said, and ill-equipped to deal with his emotions.

Petersen has a 10th-grade education, but he completed his general education degree (GED) and ran a business, Eastside Grillz in St. Paul.

He always carried a gun because at his business he dealt with precious stones and metals, received cash from clients, and worked in a sketchy part of town, Wolf said.

While eight shots can be interpreted as premeditation, Wolf argued the shooting occurred in an "unreasonable and delusional rage."

"I emotionally exploded," Petersen testified Tuesday.

Dusterhoft argued Wednesday that appreciable time passed between Petersen's first and eighth shots, and that he carried a gun from the East Side to North Star Criminal Defense, along Selby Avenue, where the shooting occurred.

"He knew when he went to Selby, that something was going to happen, and he brought the gun," Dusterhoft said.

Petersen told the judge Wednesday that premeditation was the only part of the case he is disputing.

Leary will issue a verdict in writing Friday.