Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, June 5, 2000

Toby Johnson sentenced to life in prison

By Gail Lipe

Toby Earl Johnson, 18, was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the kidnapping and murder of Randy M. Pool last July. The sentence stated he must serve a minimum of 30 years before any possibility of parole or supervised release.

Johnson pleaded guilty to the aiding and assisting in the first-degree intentional murder and second-degree intentional murder of Pool on April 10, the day before his trial was to begin.

Pool's body was found in a duffel bag in the Clearwater River in Wright County on July 28, 1999. He was beaten and tortured, in his home in Hutchinson, for approximately three days before he died of asphyxiation.

Sentencing for Johnson took place last week in McLeod County District Court in front of Judge Thomas McCarthy. He was sentenced on the aiding and assisting in the first-degree intentional murder.

Pool's mother, Orda Pool, addressed the court before Johnson was sentenced. "Thanks to Toby and his friends, I had to spend Mother's Day and my birthday without my Randy," she said.

She expressed her grief and said she felt each participant should get life in prison. She also said she wondered how they felt when they found out they murdered the wrong person.

Being in prison will give Johnson time to think, Pool's mother said, "I hope it will cross your mind how much pain and sorrow you have caused his family."

Johnson's aunt, Margaret Meinecke, read a statement from his family beginning with sincere sympathy to the Pool family.

She said the family believes Johnson made poor decisions and should be held accountable. She acknowledged that he was high and drunk during the time Pool was tortured and murdered, but he should be responsible for his actions.

She requested psychiatric care for Johnson while he is in prison so he can get the help he needs. She also said the family felt 30 years was too long of a sentence.

Johnson also made a statement before he was sentenced. He expressed his condolences to the Pool family and apologized for his involvement in the murder.

"I wish I could go back and change it," said Johnson. "But I can't. I can only go forward.

"I'm not a bad person. I was in a bad place at a bad time."

Johnson also said that chemicals played a big part in his actions at the Pool house. He said that does not excuse him, but it was a factor.

"The real me would not have done those things," said Johnson.

Johnson's attorney, Richard Lea, told the court that Johnson felt, given his minimum participation in the murder, that he should be charged on the second-degree charge, not the first-degree charge. He also voiced some problems with the restitution amount requested.

Judge McCarthy sentenced him on the first-degree charge and said he would take the amount of restitution under advisement.

Only two other defendants await sentencing, Isaac Leroy Engstrom, 22, and Heather Lynn Ecklund, 20. Their sentences were delayed until all the trials were completed because their sentences will be based in part on their cooperation at the trials. They both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Ecklund will be sentenced on June 2 and Engstrom on June 9.

Shawn Allen McCollum, 26, was sentenced in April to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his participation.

Tanya Ann Caldwell, 24, and Richard Patrick Ligenza, 21, pleaded guilty to kidnapping Pool. Caldwell was sentenced to four years in prison and Ligenza was sentenced to three years in prison.

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