August 27, 2007
Brooks and Martinez begin process through the court system
By Ryan Gueningsman
UPDATE - Aug. 24, 12 p.m.:
Jeremy Dewayne Brooks, aka Travis Allen Guntenaar, 27, and Coty Danos Martinez, 28, both suspected in the homicide death of Marysville Township resident Ruth Ann Ouverson in early August, made their first appearances in court last week.
Bail was set for Brooks at $1 million, with a Rule 8 hearing set for Tuesday, Aug. 28. Bail was set for $500,000 for Martinez, with a Rule 8 hearing set for Thursday, Aug. 30, both in Wright County District Court.
At the hearings this week, Brooks and Martinez will have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.
Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly said he is planning on trying to commence a grand jury to indict Brooks on the charge of first degree murder.
“In the State of Minnesota, I couldn’t do that by myself,” Kelly said. “The most I can do is charge second degree intentional murder. In order to prosecute murder one, it has to be by way of indictment, and to get an indictment, you need to convene a grand jury.”
Kelly said he asked for the $1 million bail amount for Brooks because of the charges in Slidell, La., and because both Brooks and Martinez have been indicted by a grand jury in Kentucky on two separate homicides.
“We had to expend numerous hours of manpower . . . helicopters, dogs . . . to apprehend them,” Kelly said. “I consider him to be an extreme flight risk, and for the safety of the public, I believe that until we can shake this case out, he needs to be in custody.”
At the hearing last week, Brooks was asked if he agreed or disagreed with that, to which he disagreed, saying he felt the bail amount should be lower. Kelly also said Brooks and Martinez have both applied for public defenders.
Investigation still active; Kentucky victim’s vehicle located in Minneapolis
Wright County Sheriff Gary Miller said the case continues to be investigated.
“The investigation is still very active,” Miller said late last week. “Some of the forensic evidence takes time to process, and that’s what’s happening.”
Miller said case files are also being processed, and have been forwarded to the Wright County Attorney’s Office to determine if additional charges will be filed against Martinez.
Wright County has also worked with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to disseminate information to other areas it is believed Brooks and Martinez may have been throughout the past few months.
Authorities from Louisville, Ky. have also been to Wright County to begin the questioning process of Brooks and Martinez in the unsolved deaths of two people from their city in which Martinez and Brooks are suspects.
Miller said Kentucky homicide victim Hugh O’Dea’s vehicle was located in Minneapolis, and was transported to the crime lab in St. Paul for processing. Eventually, it will be returned to Louisville.
As far as any other jurisdictions that may be seeking Brooks and Martinez as suspects for other crimes, Miller said there hasn’t been any other reports.
“This will be an ongoing process for some time,” he said.
Brooks is presently facing the charge of second degree murder with intent, which carries a maximum penalty of not more than 40 years imprisonment. Martinez has been charged with aiding an offender to avoid arrest.
UPDATE - Aug. 16, 2007, 12 p.m.:
Both suspects in Ouverson homicide investigation caught in central North Dakota
Both suspects wanted in the homicide death of Ruth Ann Ouverson of Montrose have been captured, and are in the process of being brought back to Wright County to face charges.
“It’s a great relief to everyone in our organization and the whole community,” Wright County Sheriff Gary Miller said late last week of the capture of Jeremy Dewayne Brooks, aka Travis Allen Guntenaar, 27, and girlfriend Coty Danos Martinez, 28. “They were a danger to wherever they were.”
Martinez was taken into custody Tuesday night after knocking on the door of an 86-year-old Drake, N.D. woman’s house asking for food or money. The woman told her son, who in turn notified authorities of the suspicious activity.
“They picked her up and didn’t realize who they had,” Miller said, adding that Martinez was taken by a deputy sheriff to a local church in a larger town for assistance in finding food. Eventually, the deputy was able to connect that she was a wanted person, and took her into custody.
Later, Brooks showed up at the same house, looking for Martinez, Miller said,
Brooks was taken into custody two days later, as authorities cornered him in a north central North Dakota field.
Now that the two suspects are in custody, Miller said his department will fill in the blanks of the case, and continue to prepare it for prosecution.
“The North Dakota authorities did a great job once they realized what they had,” Miller said, adding that he was told this was the biggest manhunt they had in 25 years.
“I think they picked the wrong state to go and hide in,” Miller said. “Everyone knows their neighbors, habits, and vehicles.”
Agriculture has gotten larger, with fewer farmers farming the same amount of land, which has left many abandoned farm homes and outbuildings, Miller said. Officials did door-to-door searching, and also checked local shelters and churches.
Eventually, areas were uncovered where it appeared the two had camped.
“They didn’t hold back any resources in attempting to locate him,” Miller said. Local, county, state, and federal authorities all participated in the efforts to find Brooks.
As of late last week, Martinez was on her way back to Wright County, and had waived extradition proceedings, Miller said, explaining that extradition is when someone is arrested on local charges in another state, the suspect has the right to refuse to go back to where the crime was committed until a hearing takes place.
The defendants can waive the right to that hearing, should they decide to, he said. Brooks was being held in Rugby, N.D., going through the same process, Miller added.
Miller said he has been in contact with officials in Slidell, La., where Brooks and Martinez had warrants out for their arrest on unrelated charges, but because of the severity of charges here, Wright County’s will take precedence. It was learned late last week that Brooks and Martinez are also considered persons of interest in two unsolved deaths in Louisville, Ky. earlier this month. Victims in these cases were discovered Aug. 4 and Aug. 6.
There is still a possibility of federal charges in the Ouverson case, since the two crossed state lines in an attempt to avoid prosecution, Miller said.
“There was a federal warrant for fleeing across state lines to avoid prosecution,” he added.
Many pieces of this case are still being sorted out, including what happened from the time of the incident in Slidell June 2 until now, and what led Martinez and Brooks to Minnesota in the first place.
Initial investigation of this crime led Miller to attempt to identify the suspects as soon as possible, and once the department had names of likely suspects, to locate where they are.
“The big break was finding the vehicle,” Miller said. “What really helped, was getting a good print there.”
Through confirming a fingerprint belonging to Brooks, officials were able to come up with a likely accomplice.
“It all came together rather rapidly,” Miller said.
Ouverson’s vehicle was located in Fargo, N.D. seven days from the time they believe the homicide took place, and Martinez was captured two days after that.
“A big break was getting the citizen to recognize one of the suspects and make the call,” Miller said, noting the help from the media also played a large role in this case in getting suspect photos and information out to the public.
After word got out that the two may be in the central North Dakota area, it would have been pretty difficult for them to hitch a ride anywhere, Miller said. Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday night, an extensive search continued, with Black Hawk helicopters being called in, as well as many other efforts taking place to locate their suspect.
Finally, about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, Miller said authorities located Brooks, who surrendered peacefully.
For those Wright County officials who traveled to the heart of North Dakota, they sometimes found cell phone communication difficult, as they had to use local residents’ telephones to call back to Minnesota to give the sheriff and others updates on the case.
Miller said North Dakota authorities are also investigating a couple fires of suspicious nature that may be linked to Martinez and Brooks.
As for Ouverson’s family, Miller said they are trying to remember the positive memories of their wife and mother, versus the negative side of what has happened over the past few weeks.
“They’re your ideal family,” Miller said. “Their focus has been the grieving process and helping their family move forward.”
Rockford Schools, where Ouverson worked as the district’s Early Childhood Family Education coordinator, issued a statement, saying, “The staff at Rockford Area Schools is saddened by the loss of such a key person as Ruth Ouverson. Our hearts go out to her friends and family during this difficult time.”
UPDATE - Aug. 15, 2007, 12:30 p.m.:
One down, one to go
Authorities capture Coty Martinez, person of interest in Ouverson homicide, in central North Dakota
Late Tuesday night, authorities took Coty Danos Martinez, 28, into custody in central North Dakota for suspected involvement in the homicide death of Ruth Ann Ouverson of Montrose the weekend of Aug. 3.
Martinez, along with Jeremy Dewayne Brooks aka Travis Allen Guntenaar, 27, was being sought in connection with the Marysville Township homicide. The pair was spotted in Buffalo and Monticello, and reportedly asked for directions to I-94 and North Dakota.
Martinez was captured near Drake, North Dakota, according to Wright County Sheriff Gary Miller. Drake is south of Minot, located in McHenry County, and has a population of just over 300, Miller said.
“She knocked on the door of an 86-year-old woman, said she was hitchhiking, and asked for food or money,” Miller said. The woman became suspicious, so she notified her son, who in turn alerted law enforcement of the suspicious activity.
“They picked her up and didn’t realize who they had,” Miller said, adding that Martinez was taken by a deputy sheriff to a local church in a larger town for assistance in finding food. Eventually, the deputy was able to somehow connect that she was a wanted person, and took her into custody.
“Jeremy Brooks showed up at the same house, looking for Martinez,” Miller said, noting a massive manhunt is presently underway yet for Brooks.
A number of North Dakota state agencies, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) area actively involved in finding Brooks and taking him into custody.
McHenry County Sheriff Marv Sola said his agency is actively searching for Brooks, with the assistance of numerous other agencies.
“We’re hunting desperately for him,” Sola said, adding that the terrain is dotted with a lot of farm and ranch land.
Martinez is currently being held in Rugby, North Dakota, on an outstanding warrant from Louisiana for attempted homicide and armed robbery.
Miller said a detective from Wright County, along with a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension officer, flew to North Dakota late Tuesday night to try to speak with Martinez. He added he is working with the Wright County Attorney’s Office to seek possible charges of fugitive from justice.
“This is still developing as we speak near Drake, North Dakota,” Miller said. “This is a tough case fortunately they don’t come along very often.”
Miller said he still does not know what led Brooks and Martinez to the Wright County area.
“We’re checking every lead,” he said.
Details emerge about Martinez and Brooks’ past
Couple kicked out of La. residence for manufacturing narcotics
How or why Jeremy Dewayne Brooks aka Travis Allen Guntenaar, 27, and girlfriend Coty Danos Martinez, 28, both of Louisiana, made it north to Minnesota is not yet known, but details have slowly been emerging about their past.
Brooks has an address listed in Greenwood, while Martinez has an address of Cut Off, La. Greenwood is located in northwest La., while Cut Off is on the opposite end of the state in southeastern La.
The two have active warrants out for their arrest for attempted homicide and armed robbery stemming from an incident that took place at America’s Best Suites in Slidell, La. June 2.
What was initially reported as damage to a hotel room window soon turned into much more, as authorities observed a man named Jo Welch severely injured, laying on the bed in a hotel room, according to a report from the Slidell City Attorney’s Office.
Welch was unable to talk to authorities at first, due to injuries sustained. After Welch was able to speak with authorities, he told them he was walking outside near the motel when he was approached by a white male who asked him if he “wanted to meet a nice looking lady upstairs at the motel,” according to the report.
Welch told the man he did not have any money, but the man insisted Welch come up to the room. After sitting in the room for a bit, Welch attempted to leave when he was struck in the face with a glass beer bottle, according to the report. The man also reportedly held a knife to Welch’s throat, and was struck several more times with bottles by both the male and female who were in the room before falling to the floor and losing consciousness.
Welch said he eventually crawled from the floor to the bed, but said he was too weak to call for medical or police assistance, according to the report. Following investigation of the incident, a warrant was issued for Martinez for first degree attempted homicide and armed robbery.
In an attempt to locate Martinez in Cut Off, authorities spoke with a family member who said that “Martinez and her boyfriend were kicked out of the residence approximately one month earlier for manufacturing illegal narcotics inside of the residence,” according to the report.
In speaking with Martinez’s family, authorities learned her boyfriend’s name was Jeremy Brooks, and that the two drove a blue Honda as their means of travel.
A photo line-up was shown to Welch that included Brooks’ photo, and Welch said “he was 100 percent positive that Brooks was the white male who attacked him along with Martinez.”
After learning this, a warrant also was issued for Brooks’ arrest on the same charges.
Brooks is a former journeyman heavyweight boxer, using the ring moniker of “Superstar,” with a professional boxing record of 4-2, according to BoxRec.com. His last fight was Oct. 4, 2005, in Memphis, Tenn., where he lost by unanimous decision.
UPDATE - Aug. 13, 2007:
Based on evidence gained during the course of the investigation the following suspects have been identified in the homicide of Ruth Ouverson in Marysville Township, according to the Wright County Sheriff's Office.
Suspect number one is Jeremy Dewayne Brooks, 27, 6’5” tall, 225lbs, brown hair, hzl/blue eyes, of Greenwood, Louisiana
Suspect number two is Coty Danos Martinez, 28, 5’03” tall, 100lbs, brown hair, brown eyes, of Cut Off, Louisiana
Jeremy Brooks and a female, believed to be Coty Martinez, were last observed on store surveillance video during the evening hours of Aug. 3, at a Fargo, ND Wal-Mart store.
The Wright County Attorney’s Office has issued a signed criminal compliant on Jeremy Dewayne Brooks for second degree murder for the death of Ruth Ouverson of Marysville Township.
Coty Martinez is wanted as a person of interest in Ouverson’s death.
Jeremy Brooks and Coty Martinez have active arrest warrants out of Louisiana, for attempted first degree murder and armed robbery stemming from an incident that occurred June 2, 2007, in Slidell, Louisiana.
These parties should be considered armed and dangerous. If seen, please contact your local law enforcement agency, or the Wright County Sheriff’s Office at (763) 682-7622.
The 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee belonging to Ruth Ouverson has been recovered at a Wal-Mart Store in Fargo, ND at about 12:30 a.m. Aug. 12 by the Fargo Police Department, according to information released by the Wright County Sheriff's Office Aug. 13.
The vehicle was taken to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St Paul, MN for processing. Detectives from the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Fargo Police, and the ND Bureau of Criminal Investigation are currently in Fargo following up on the recovery.
Authorities are still seeking the male and female suspects that have been described in earlier press releases. Citizens are cautioned not to approach, but contact law enforcement if the suspects are spotted.
Wright County authorities are actively investigating a homicide that took place at a residence on 36th Street in Marysville Township, north of Montrose, Saturday, Aug. 4.
A call was received from a concerned family friend when the victim, who have since been identified as Ruth Ann Ouverson, 58, failed to show up for an appointment that afternoon, Wright County Sheriff Gary Miller said at a press conference in Buffalo last Monday afternoon.
Authorities checked the residence at that time, knocked on the door, and didn’t receive a response, Miller said. Nothing unusual was noted at the residence, which was reported back to the individual who called.
A bit later, another call was made to the sheriff’s department by a family member with concern of Ouverson’s whereabouts. It was at that time authorities discovered the body of the woman inside the residence.
“We believe foul play was involved,” Miller said, adding he could not elaborate on any other specifics of the case at this time as it is being actively investigated.
Public’s help sought in locating victim’s vehicle
Miller is asking for the public’s help in locating Ouverson’s vehicle, which is believed to have been taken from the residence by the suspect(s).
The vehicle, a 2002 dark blue Jeep Grand Cherokee, has Minnesota license plates HVT-377. Although Miller would not specify a direction of travel the suspect is believed to have taken at first, later in the week, the sheriff’s department said the man is believed to have been seen in Buffalo and Monticello.
“If anyone has contact with the vehicle, they should not approach it, but rather contact their local law enforcement authorities by calling 911, or the Wright County Sheriff’s Office at (763) 682-7622,” Miller said.
At the press conference, authorities also released three photo images of the person they are interested in speaking with, captured from surveillance cameras at a convenience store in Buffalo where he used Ouverson’s ATM card Aug. 3 at about 2:45 p.m. The suspect also reportedly asked for directions to I-94, and mentioned North Dakota, according to the sheriff’s department.
That same afternoon between 3:10 and 3:30 p.m., the same subject used the victim’s ATM card at convenience stores in Monticello. Surveillance video from Monticello also shows a passenger in the vehicle.
The sheriff’s department has developed information that the homicide may be related to a residential burglary that occurred in the 300 block of 45th Street SW in Marysville Township Aug. 1.
Around the time of that burglary, a male and female were seen walking near where the burglary occurred. The male suspect spotted does resemble the person in the ATM photos. The female is described as being Caucasian in her 20s wearing gray BDU-type pants, and a black t-shirt.
Miller said the general public and people who live in that area should take the normal precautions to ensure their safety.
“The reality is we believe we have a homicide and no one in custody,” Miller said following the press conference. “Until we have someone in custody, there’s that risk.”
Miller said at this point, he “can’t say if the suspect has left the area.”
“We do have extra patrol especially in the southern part of the county,” Miller said, adding that if anyone notices anything suspicious, or locates the vehicle that was taken from the scene, they should notify authorities immediately.
“We’d sooner check it out than not get the call,” he said.
The death remains under investigation by the Wright County Medical Examiner and the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.
Funeral arrangements announced for Ouverson
Visitation for Ouverson was Saturday, Aug. 11 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Peterson Chapel of Buffalo, with a prayer service at 7 p.m.
The funeral service was Sunday, Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Howard Lake, with a one-hour visitation prior to the start of the service.
Ouverson was born July 5, 1949 to Henry and Mildred (nee Harvey) Wahnschaffe. She worked as an Early Child and Family Education (ECFE) Coordinator for Rockford School District 883.
Interment was at Kreidler Cemetery in Montrose. See a complete obituary elsewhere in this week’s paper.
Rumors of additional victims ‘absolutely untrue’
Rumors of an additional crime/homicide taking place in the Montrose area are “absolutely untrue,” said Lt. Greg Howell of the Wright County Sheriff’s Department Thursday morning.
He said he had also heard rumors circulating among courthouse staff, and said there are no additional victims.
Howell said the mounted patrol was out Tuesday searching for items that may be of interest relating to the case already being investigated.