Weather Forecast


Menahga man charged with second-degree murder in Park Rapids killing

Sarah Smith

Forum News Service

PARK RAPIDS — A Menahga man charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Park Rapids woman Monday will essentially be held without bond.

That’s because Harley David Leritz, 21, has been simultaneously charged with a probation violation for a 2012 criminal sexual conduct conviction.

However, Judge Robert Tiffany, appearing by video Wednesday from Bagley, set bail in the death of Kiela Gem Knowles, 19, at $1.5 million without conditions and $1 million with numerous conditions. The no bail provision was set in the felony probation violation case.

Knowles was found dead in her Park Rapids apartment Monday morning by her father after he was unable to reach her.

Leritz was arrested Monday afternoon and allegedly confessed to the crime.

Only a handful of spectators in the crowded lobby were allowed into Hubbard County’s small courtroom, where the video setup is located. That left many standing outside in the hall during the proceedings.

Under Minnesota law, prosecutors can level only second-degree murder charges in a death case. Raising the charge to first-degree murder requires an indictment by a grand jury.

Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne would not say whether he would convene a grand jury in the case.

Leritz is accused of strangling Knowles until she died of asphyxiation.

His next hearing is set for March 17.

Leritz was represented by public defender Paul Thompson, who argued for lower bail, saying Leritz was a lifelong resident of the area. But because the probation violation is tracking along with the murder case, the no bail provision rules.

Leritz has previous convictions on traffic and liquor charges, as well as a fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge in 2012, which involved an underage girl.

For that crime he received 30 days in jail and 10 years of supervised probation.

Dearstyne argued for $3 million unconditional bail and $2 million with conditions because of two prior probation violations. The murder charge would be the third alleged violation.

Second-degree murder, punishable by 40 years in prison, is defined as causing “the death of a human being with intent to effect the death of that person or another, but without premeditation.”

Forum News Service

The Forum Communications News Service is the premier news wire service covering the Upper Midwest, including the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In addition to breaking and enterprise news, we offer a wide variety of sports, features, business, agriculture, outdoors and opinion content. For more information about the services we offer or to discuss content subscriptions, please contact us.