Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Staff reports
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Conviction in murder trial


One of the two men facing murder charges in the Pine County Jail was convicted Friday.

At 10:30 p.m. October 23, Robert Sam Raisch Jr., 49, of Sandstone was convicted by a jury after 11 hours of deliberation.

Raisch was found guilty of second degree murder-with intent, second degree murder-while committing a felony and first degree assault. The jury found him not guilty of arson in the case in which James Shepardson was found deceased in his home following a fire at 60433 Hammond Rd. in Finlayson.

“This was a terrible incident, but it brought out the best in Pine County. The work that the sheriff’s office and the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) put into this case was outstanding. They tracked every lead possible, and put in countless hours,” said County Attorney Reese Frederickson, who personally prosecuted the case.

At the end of August, Raisch asked for a speedy trial, meaning the County Attorney’s Office had only six weeks to prepare the complicated homicide case. Frederickson said members of both the Pine County Sheriff’s Office and BCA were in contact with the County Attorney’s Office daily, including weekends. These law enforcement officials, along with Sheriff Jeff Nelson, were also in court for the verdict.

Two weeks of testimony included numerous forensic scientists, the medical examiner, many BCA agents and sheriff’s office personnel, the state fire marshal and many other witnesses.

The case

On March 7, local fire departments were called to Shepardson’s home because of the fire.

Shepardson’s body was found inside the home and the Anoka County Medical Examiner discovered depressed skull fractures and ruled it a homicide. He was identified through DNA analysis. In the investigation, Pine County Sheriff’s Office investigators learned Shepardson had let Raisch stay at his home. About an hour after the fire, Raisch was stopped by Mille Lacs Tribal Police and an investigator noted visible injuries to at least one of his hands. Two days later, he was arrested for providing false information to police. A search warrant was executed on the Hammond Road property and also on Raisch’s clothing at the jail. After he was arrested, investigators observed Raisch had several cuts on his hand.

A witness said Raisch was at Shepardson’s home and stole a large TV and speakers from the home. Both the TV and the speakers were later found to have a number of blood stains on them.

Another person, who was with Raisch during the theft, said Raisch had gotten into a physical fight, the report said, and when the witness returned to the home after taking the speakers, told authorities that Raisch stated, “You don’t have to worry about him anymore,” the charging document said. The witness further stated as he exited the bedroom, he could smell smoke coming from the home and observed several fires burning in the kitchen and living room areas as he left the home.

The man said he knew Shepardson owned a .22 rifle, and saw Raisch with the gun, and he pointed the rifle at him and attempted to pull the trigger, but the safety was on. This gun was later found on a wooded path near 8th Street and Angle Avenue in Sandstone by three young girls. DNA mixture on the gun included Shepardson’s DNA.

The witness further said they stopped by the casino, and three other homes, before being pulled over by authorities before returning to a home on Commercial Avenue in Sandstone, where Raisch was staying. The man further observed blood on Raisch’s hands and pants.

Lengthy criminal record

Raisch will be sentenced on January 8, 2016. Based on his past record, the sentencing range is between 30 and 40 years in prison. Since 1984, Raisch has had nine felony convictions, including three federal convictions, and served time in both federal and state prisons.

He was last released from prison on December 31, 2014, just a little more than two months before he was accused of murder. In that previous case, Raisch was accused of beating a 75-year-old man in rural Isanti County, and stole his truck. The elderly man lost hearing in one ear and vision in one eye. This man testified in the Pine County case.

Raisch came to Pine County in February of this year and lived with Shepardson for a brief period of time, before leaving that home to stay with a relative on Commercial Avenue.

“It appeared Shepardson was trying to do a good deed by letting Raisch stay with him. He lost his life for that good deed,” Frederickson said.

According to court testimony, Raisch sold the speakers and TV to another convicted felon in the county for $40.

Frederickson said it was an especially trying time for the County Attorney’s Office since, during this trial, the grand jury was meeting on whether to bring first-degree murder charges against Jonathan Loun, who is accused of brutally assaulting 3-year-old Dante Sears, who later died due to his injuries.

“My office pulled together and everyone did an outstanding job,” Frederickson said.


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