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History of violent assaults is 'alarming'

When she was murdered, Jackie DeFoe joined a long list of Native American women who have been victims of violence. A 2016 National Institute of Justice report revealed that four in five American Indian (and Alaskan Native) women have experienced violence in their lifetime, and more than half have experienced physical violence by intimate partners.

It’s an issue that touches everyone, said Cloquet’s Sheila Lamb, who sits on the statewide Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women task force and works with trafficked and at-risk youth at Life House in Duluth.

“This (domestic violence) is not just a Native issue,” Lamb said. “I have seen women of every race going through this.”

A look at Sheldon Thompson’s criminal history reveals a half dozen incidents that included assault and domestic assault charges over a 14-year period.

-In December 2006, at the age of 19, Thompson was charged with attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, as well as fourth-degree damage to property. In a plea bargain, Thompson pleaded guilty to the second-degree charges and the other charges were dismissed. A five-year prison sentence was stayed and Thompson served a year at the Northeast Regional Corrections Center before being released with five years of probation.

-In February of 2009, Thompson was again charged with second-degree assault, felony domestic assault by strangulation, terroristic threats, misdemeanor domestic assault, obstructing the legal process and fleeing a police officer. He was convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault and all the other charges were dismissed. Thompson was sentenced to serve 90 days in Carlton County jail in that case, and his probation in the prior case was revoked. Thompson was credited with 360 days already served and ordered to serve two-thirds of what remained of his five-year sentence, with the remaining third on supervised release.

-In December of 2013, Thompson was again charged with felony domestic assault by strangulation, interference with an emergency call as well as gross misdemeanor domestic assault. He pleaded guilty to the gross misdemeanor and the other two charges were dismissed. A sentence of a year in jail was stayed with credit for 82 days already served while the case was working its way through the court system.

-In November of 2015, Thompson was charged with fifth-degree gross misdemeanor assault and criminal damage to property in the third degree. He pleaded guilty to the assault and the other charge was dismissed. A sentence of one year in jail was stayed with credit for 17 days served and two years probation.

-In Wisconsin in May of 2016 Thompson was charged with second-degree charge of recklessly endangering safety along with battery/domestic abuse and disorderly conduct/domestic abuse. In that case, Thompson pleaded guilty to the first charge, and the other charges were dismissed. He was sentenced in April 2017 to state prison for three years and six months. He was either in jail or a correctional institution for 18 months, then spent eight months at a supervised living facility before being released on extended supervision.

-Back in Carlton County, Thompson faced new charges of third-degree assault and felony domestic assault filed in December 2016. He pleaded guilty to the third-degree charge, and the other charge was dismissed. Thompson was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but the prison sentence was stayed for three years. He served 315 days at NERCC with credit for 49 days served at the Carlton County jail.

-In January of 2017, Thompson was charged with violating a domestic abuse no contact order in Carlton County Court, a felony. He was sentenced to two years in prison, but the sentence was stayed for three years. Instead he was sentenced to serve 12 months in the Carlton County jail, after which Thompson was placed on unsupervised probation for three years.

Lamb said Thompson’s criminal history should have raised red flags to anyone involved in the cases.

“There’s a pattern of behavior on both his side and the judicial side that I find alarming,” she said. “There are too many slaps on the wrists, too many paltry charges and plea deals.”

She worries that the judicial system doesn’t take domestic violence seriously enough, and lacks the resources to respond in a way that could help prevent future violence by identifying mental health issues and treating them.

Jackie DeFoe was also facing charges of domestic violence. On Jan. 22, she was charged with felony domestic assault by strangulation, as well as a misdemeanor domestic assault charge.

According to the criminal complaint in that case, Sheldon Thompson told Fond du Lac police officers that they were arguing when DeFoe grabbed the can of pop he was holding and threw it at him, striking his legs and causing it to spill on him. He also said she grabbed his throat with both hands and made it impossible for him to breathe. According to the criminal complaint, DeFoe admitted to throwing the pop can and pushing Thompson.

DeFoe was arrested and a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order was issued the same day, preventing her from contacting or being near him.

“A lot of chronic abusers have learned how to manipulate the system,” Lamb said. “There are times when our women are charged when in fact they were protecting themselves. This is a classic example of that.”

On Feb. 10, Thompson penned a letter to Judge Robert Macaulay asking that the judge lift the protection order, stating that DeFoe did not choke him and adding that he would testify in court to that effect.

“We are having a child together and I am trying to build a family together,” he wrote to the judge. In the letter Thompson acknowledged his own criminal history and said he was working with Pathways “to secure a family safety plan” and asserted that he would be enrolling in domestic violence classes over the next few weeks as it was part of the conditions of his parole.

“I request that the (order) be dropped against Ms. DeFoe so we can move forward with our lives,” he wrote to end the letter entered into DeFoe’s case file.

On Monday, March 2, Judge Macaulay canceled the order that forbid DeFoe from being near Thompson. By that weekend, she was dead.

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