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Third-degree murder charge added in shooting case

Prosecutors added a charge in the case of a Cloquet man accused of fatally shooting his friend late last year.

In addition to the second-degree manslaughter charges filed against Joseph James Fohrenkam, 18, for the Dec. 28 shooting, Duluth prosecutors added a third-degree murder charge in St. Louis County Court on Feb. 23.

According to the criminal complaint, Joseph Fohrenkam was drinking with four other young men in a parked truck outside a home on the 3600 block of Giiniw Road, on the Fond du Lac Reservation in St. Louis County the night of Dec. 27. According to three witnesses who were interviewed by law enforcement, they were just drinking and talking, not arguing. Fohrenkam allegedly had a pistol, which he was “showing off” and “waving around.” At least two of the witnesses said they thought Fohrenkam may have hit his arm on the center console when he was pulling it back, causing the pistol to discharge.

Sixteen-year-old Joseph James Peterson was seated in the middle of the back seat. The bullet hit him below his left eye and killed him.

All three of the witnesses fled the scene before the police arrived, as did Fohrenkam and his mother, Little Fawn Fohrenkam, who were apprehended more than a week later at an apartment complex on the White Earth Reservation in Mahnomen County. Little Fawn is being charged with aiding an offender to avoid arrest, a felony.

Joseph Fohrenkam pleaded not guilty on Feb. 1. Bail was set at $400,000. A settlement conference is scheduled for April 2.

Manslaughter charges are not murder charges: in this case, the charge description notes that Fohrenkam caused “the death of a human being” and is culpable because he created an “unreasonable risk and consciously took a chance of causing death or great bodily harm to another.” The third-degree murder charge alleges he killed Peterson without intent “perpetrating eminently dangerous act and evincing depraved mind, without regard for human life.”

The maximum sentence for third-degree murder is 25 years imprisonment, and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.