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Judge orders 15 years prison in totem pole death

INTERNATIONAL FALLS – The man who pleaded guilty to unintentional second-degree murder for killing his wife with a 17-foot-long, 700-pound totem pole was sentenced Monday to 15 years – the maximum allowed under court guidelines.

Carl Muggli, 51, of Ray, admitted in a plea hearing in State District Court last month that he raised a 5-foot wooden-handled cant hook – used for lifting, turning and prying logs – two-handed over his head in a threatening motion while his wife recoiled in fear, fell backward and knocked a 17-foot-long, 700-plus-pound totem pole out of its cradle system onto her head and chest, leading to the injuries that caused Linda Muggli’s death.

Muggli said that he and his wife were in a heated argument about his Internet romance with an Alabama woman at the time of the incident.

Koochiching County Sheriff Brian Jespersen was the lead investigator in the case when he was his office’s chief deputy. Jespersen told the News Tribune that the defendant’s version of events didn’t square with the results of an investigation done by his office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He said the manner of Linda Muggli’s death isn’t exactly known, but he doesn’t believe that it was an accident that the log landed on her.

Margaret Gonzalez, 58, the online “other woman” said in a phone interview from her Dothan, Ala., home last month that she was shocked at Muggli’s admission because she didn’t initially think he murdered his wife. She also said she is ashamed of herself for her actions in the romance.

Muggli was scheduled to stand trial last month in Beltrami County District Court on a charge of premeditated first-degree murder and intentional second-degree murder. He reached the plea agreement with the Koochiching County Attorney’s Office and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, which were jointly prosecuting the case.

The lowest guideline sentence for unintentional second-degree murder for someone with no criminal history was 12½ years in prison. The maximum guideline sentence was 15 years in prison. The prosecution argued for the maximum and the defense argued for the minimum, with Judge Charles LeDuc handing down the sentence.

Gonzalez said she first contacted the Mugglis because she was interested in buying a totem pole. She said she started to communicate more with Carl Muggli, and their relationship turned romantic.

“He was trying to talk sex talk with me, and that’s where it started,” Gonzalez said. She said she sent Muggli nude and partially nude photos of herself and another woman and she said he sent her a half-dozen nude photos of himself.

At his plea hearing, Muggli admitted that he started to communicate with Gonzalez and their relationship turned romantic on-line and that he engaged in Internet sex with her.

Charges were brought against Muggli after investigators learned of the romantic Facebook conversations between Gonzalez and Muggli. Gonzalez, who is identified in court documents as M.L.G., told a Koochiching County sheriff’s deputy that she was on the phone with Muggli on the day his wife died and she heard him arguing with his wife about getting a divorce. Gonzalez said Muggli called her back 30 minutes later and told her an accident had happened and emergency medical technicians were working on his wife.

The Koochiching County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Linda Muggli’s death the day she died. Carl Muggli initially told investigators the totem pole wasn’t lying level in a cradle as they worked on it, so he placed two or three two-by-fours under the pole to keep it level. He said they were turning the pole with a hook when it suddenly fell to the floor on top of his wife.

Six months later, Carl Muggli was arrested in Texas, where he and his late wife spent part of their winters and where he hunted wild boars. 

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