Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 17, 2000

McCollum sentenced to life in prison

By Gail Lipe

Shawn Allen McCollum, 26, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his part in the kidnapping and murder of Randy M. Pool.

A Dakota County jury found McCollum guilty of first-degree intentional murder while kidnapping, second-degree intentional murder and the kidnapping of Pool on March 29.

Sentencing took place in the McLeod County District Court on Friday in front of Judge Terrence Conkel.

Pool's body was found in a duffel bag in the Clearwater River in Wright County on July 28. Pool was beaten and tortured, in his home in Hutchinson, for approximately three days before he died of asphyxiation.

Testimony was given in McCollum's 15-day trial by other defendants in the case, as well as police officers, other witnesses and forensic experts.

McCollum's attorney, Anthony Nerud, submitted a motion to acquit McCollum and asked Conkel to overturn the jury's verdict.

"My client did not kill Randy Pool by hitting him with a hammer," said Nerud. "My client did not kill him by standing on him. My client did not kill him by spraying an aerosol in the bag."

Nerud said Janis C. Amatuzio, the forensic pathologist who was the coroner for Wright County, said these things appeared to have happened after Pool was already dead. He said Amatuzio said Pool died of asphyxiation.

He said the state's own witness said Pool did not die from the direct actions of his client. Nerud said he counted approximately six times McCollum struck Pool over the three-day period.

He said the testimonies of Heather Lynn Ecklund, 20, and Isaac Leroy Engstrom, 22, other defendants in the case, were not corroborated by the medical evidence.

McLeod County Attorney Mike Junge opposed the motion. He said the state tried to prove that McCollum, "acting in concert with others," intended to and caused the death of Pool.

Nerud also motioned to have the court vacate the first-degree murder charge.

Conkel said he believed the state provided enough evidence for McCollum to be found guilty of first-degree intentional murder while kidnapping, second-degree intentional murder and the kidnapping of Pool.

"Which particular act, or which particular person killed Pool is unclear," said Conkel. "Mr. McCollum will be liable with the others."

Conkel said there was enough evidence that McCollum did intentionally aid and aspire to intentionally kidnap Pool and kill him.

A letter, submitted to the court from Pool's mother and Connie Pool, Pool's sister, asked the court for restitution of $22,398 on behalf of Pool for personal property, lawyers fees and money that was taken out of Pool's account after he died.

In conclusion, they said Randy was a young man who never thought twice about befriending and helping someone. They thanked everyone who was, and is, involved in the investigation of the people who killed him.

Junge said Pool was a young man whose opportunities of life had been taken away. He said the criminal justice system recognizes heinous crimes while kidnapping in a statute with a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Nerud entered a third motion asking the court to reconsider the statute and the inequitable situation. He said the forensic expert said McCollum's actions were not the mechanism of death.

He said McCollum was suspect with Pool in the beginning, and could have been in Pool's shoes had Pool not told Ecklund and Tanya Ann Caldwell, 24, two other defendants, that McCollum was not at the house when their husband and fiance were picked up by the police.

"The people who set the plan in motion, the people who designed and implemented it were sentenced to 36 years in prison, yet the state is asking for life imprisonment without the possibility for parole for this man," said Nerud.

He said it was inequitable and asked Conkel to consider life imprisonment with a minimum of 30 years.

Before Conkel sentenced McCollum, McCollum addressed the family. "I'm sorry about what happened to Randy," said McCollum. He said he could not do anything to make it better and said he would repay the money he took out of Pool's account. He also said he would pay the funeral costs.

McCollum also told the family thank you. "Randy saved my life," said McCollum.

Conkel said he took no pleasure in sending anyone to prison, which he would have to do with McCollum.

"I believe it was a fair trial," said Conkel. "The horror, terror and pain Pool went through is beyond my understanding. Why it was done by you and others is beyond my understanding."

Conkel said he did not agree with Nerud that he had any equitable latitude, and he would have to follow the statute.

McCollum was then sentenced. The restitution amount was deferred until an affidavit was filled out and everyone had the opportunity to review it. All fines and surcharges were waived.

Ecklund and Engstrom previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and will be sentenced in May with a minimum of 30 years and a maximum of 36 years in prison.

Caldwell and Patrick Ligenza, 21, previously pleaded guilty to kidnapping Pool. Caldwell was sentenced to four years in prison and Ligenza was sentenced to three years in prison.

Toby Earl Johnson, 18, was also charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and kidnapping.

Johnson pleaded guilty to murder on April 10, the day before his trial was to begin.

Johnson is the last of the six defendants charged in this case to be sentenced. He pleaded guilty to the aiding and assisting in first-degree intentional murder and second-degree intentional murder.

According to Mike Junge, McLeod County attorney, Johnson's plea is different from the first-degree murder charge in that it does not include "while kidnapping."

Johnson will be sentenced on May 26 at 10 a.m. Junge said the Minnesota State Statute mandates a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

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