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1998 cold case: Brothers make court appearance

Brothers Todd and Troy Martin appeared in Clearwater County District Court Monday with their respective attorneys, Tom Kuesel and Robert Wallner, for a Rule 8 hearing. Clearwater County Attorney Jeanine Brand reported that they waived their right to have the charges read to them.

The next hearing (Omnibus) is scheduled for March 8 at 1:30pm. Meanwhile, Todd Martin remains in custody in the Clearwater County Jail in Bagley, and Troy Martin is out on bail.

Troy Frederic Martin, 37, of Bagley, and Todd Walter Martin, 34, of Fosston were charged in Clearwater County District Court in relation to the Oct. 28, 1998 death of their sister, 31-year-old Leisa Renae Martin of Bagley.

The brothers are each charged with felony aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, aiding an offender and aiding and abetting the interference with a dead body. Bail was set at $250,000 for each defendant.

On Oct. 28, 1998, Leisa Martin was reported missing. Three days later two men looking for firewood in the woods just over the Clearwater County line in Mahnomen County found her body.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy, which showed the cause of death as "asphyxia due to assault" (strangling), according to the criminal complaint.

According to the criminal complaint:

At about 8:50 p.m. Oct. 28, 1998, Todd Martin reported to the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office that his sister, Leisa Martin, had been missing since 3 a.m. that day. He said she was drunk and left their home in rural Bagley. He said he had been arguing with Leisa and drinking alcohol at a local bar the evening of Oct. 27, 1998

Investigators spoke to Troy Martin who said he was asleep at the time of the incident.

At about 12:57 a.m. Oct. 31, 1998, two men reported finding the body in the woods. During the investigation law enforcement found that Troy Martin was familiar with the woods where the body was found because he had a job test driving snowmobiles in the area. The marks left by a vehicle at the crime scene was from a low body clearance vehicle like Todd Martin's 1989 low-body Chevrolet.

On Oct. 29, 1998, searchers found a shallow grave on the Martin property matching Leisa martin's size and containing DNA evidence that matched Todd and Troy Martin.

At 2:20 a.m. Jan. 24, the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office received a report of a disturbance at the Troy Martin residence. Law enforcement responded and arrested Todd Martin on a DWI charge. Todd Martin then allegedly strangled a Clearwater County deputy while being transported to the Clearwater County Jail.

After being read his Miranda rights, Todd Martin told a deputy that he and Troy Martin had argued with Leisa in the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 1998. Todd Martin said Troy Martin restrained Leisa and she passed out. Todd Martin said he and his brother thought Leisa had passed out from alcohol and left her lying on the ground. Todd Martin said after about 25 minutes, they realized she was dead. Todd Martin said he and his brother transported the body in his vehicle to the woods just across the Clearwater County line in Mahnomen County and disposed of the body in the woods.

The complaint states that neither Todd nor Troy Martin gave law enforcement information about the whereabouts of Leisa's body or of her death in the previous 10 and a half years. However, Brand said many of the law enforcement agencies originally involved have continued their investigation. These include the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office, Bagley Police Department, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Clearbrook-Gonvick Police Department and Mahnomen County Sheriff's Office.

If convicted, Todd and Troy Martin each face maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and fine of $20,000 on the charge of aiding and abetting manslaughter, five years and fine of and a $10,000 on the charge of aiding an offender and one year and fine of $3,000 on the charge of aiding and abetting interference with a dead body.