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ROSE DOWNWIND CASE: Rossbach appears in court; attorney challenges probable cause

BEMIDJI—An attorney for a Bemidji man charged for his alleged role in the October death of Rose Downwind is challenging the probable cause against his client.

Kassius Benson is the attorney for Brandon Rossbach, 31, who has been charged with aiding an offender, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

During a contested omnibus hearing Tuesday, Benson also made a motion to suppress four search warrants used in the investigation.

Tuesday's hearing before Judge Paul Benshoof comes about a month after Marchello Cimmarusti, 40, pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree intentional murder and named Rossbach as one of the individuals who assisted in disposing of Downwind's body.

Rossbach was arrested Dec. 9 after Cimmarusti turned himself in and told investigators about Downwind's death and how Rossbach and Christopher Davis, 27, of St. Paul, were involved in what happened to her body.

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While entering a guilty plea April 18, Cimmarusti was again questioned about the events leading to Downwind's death on Oct. 20. Cimmarusti told the court he had gotten into an argument with Downwind, his ex-girlfriend and mother of five children, at his home at 101 Stoner Ave. in south Bemidji.

Cimmarusti said the argument turned violent and he put his hands around Downwind's neck and pushed her against the basement door in the house. Cimmarusti then said the next thing he remembered is standing at the top of the stairs and Downwind being on the basement floor.

After Downwind's death, Cimmarusti said he contacted his friend Davis and asked him for help. Davis agreed and drove from St. Paul to Bemidji and checked on Downwind's body when he arrived at the house. Cimmarusti said Davis then left and returned with Rossbach, who Cimmarusti said he's known for about nine years.

During the time Rossbach was with Davis, security footage from Wal-Mart showed the two men buying Styrofoam items, according to court documents. Cimmarusti said these products were with the two men when they came back to his residence.

Cimmarusti said he and Davis brought Downwind's body from the basement to his SUV and that Davis loaded the Styrofoam items and a gas can into the back of the vehicle. The three men then drove to an area just off State Highway 89 northwest of Bemidji.

Cimmarusti and Davis dug a hole at the site and placed Downwind's body along with the Styrofoam products in before lighting a fire with the gasoline at about 2 a.m. on Oct. 21, Cimmarusti said. After about two hours, Cimmarusti said he and Davis put dirt and branches over the site to cover the body.

According to Cimmarusti, Rossbach said "no matter what, the evidence would be circumstantial, so deny everything." Cimmarusti also told the court that Rossbach offered to give him a medication called diazepam to take before talking to detectives to appear calm.

After pleading guilty, Cimmarusti was ordered to serve 35 years in prison and sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 28.

At Tuesday's hearing, the state called Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Don Newhouse to the stand and had him confirm the Wal-Mart security images and a lab report that showed plastic material used in Styrofoam products was recovered from where Downwind's body was burned and found.

Newhouse was also questioned by Benson on Tuesday about the number of statements Cimmarusti gave to law enforcement, including those that had been false. Newhouse acknowledged Cimmarusti had lied to detectives on multiple occasions.

The hearing concluded with Benshoof allowing the defense until June 3 to make final submissions regarding its challenging the probable cause and until June 7 for the state to address those submissions. Benshoof then has 90 days to make a decision on whether or not there's enough probable cause to move to a pre-trial and subsequent trial.

Davis, arrested in February in Waller County, Texas, has also been charged with aiding an offender and has a contested omnibus hearing scheduled for June 7.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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