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Ball Club woman charged with intentional murder, arson

A 42-year-old Ball Club woman has been charged with second-degree intentional murder and first-degree arson for an incident that took place on Monday near Deer River.

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A 42-year-old Ball Club woman has been charged with second-degree intentional murder and first-degree arson for an incident that took place on Monday near Deer River.

According to a release from Itasca County Attorney Matti Adam, a criminal complaint was filed on Thursday, July 21, charging Crystal Marie Wilson, 42, of Ball Club, Minn., with felony charges including second-degree intentional murder and first-degree arson.

At 9:26 a.m. on Monday, July 18, law enforcement responded to a call that a camper was on fire in Ball Club, about 50 miles east of Bemidji. Through the course of the investigation, authorities learned that a male was deceased and suffered severe injuries unrelated to the fire, the release said.

According to the criminal complaint, on July 18, Itasca County Law Enforcement was dispatched to a report of a camper on fire with a person inside in Ball Club. Deer River police officer Samantha Perry arrived at the scene and observed black smoke coming from behind Harwood's Supper Club and Bar. She then spotted a camper engulfed in flames near a garage structure.

A man was found lying to the west of the camper with severe burns on his hand and arms. Witnesses on the scene said they pulled the man to where he was and identified him. He is referred to as B.R. in the complaint.

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Perry was unable to locate a pulse and noted some type of puncture wounds on B.R.’s back and arms.

The owner of Harwood’s, referred to as J.H., spoke with law enforcement and explained that B.R. was her nephew and he had lived in the camper for the past two to three years.

She said that she did not see anything out of the ordinary when she let her dog out around 6 or 6:30 a.m. A short time later, a person referred to as T.W. came up to her house saying that B.R.’s camper was full of smoke and he was going to drag B.R. out of the camper, the complaint said.

J.H. told other law enforcement that B.R. had been at her home the previous night around 9:30 p.m. when he said he was going home to the camper.

T.W. said he was riding his bike toward Harwood’s when he saw the smoke coming from the camper. He opened the door and found B.R. laying on the floor. T.W. noted there was a lot of smoke and B.R. had his feet toward the door and his head facing the opposite wall.

T.W. ran to tell J.H. to call 911 and then went back to the camper, pulling B.R. approximately 10 feet away from the camper. T.W. said B.R. had bad burns on his head and arm and noticed marks on his shoulder, the documents said.

The camper, a single axle camper around 13 feet in length with one door and several windows on each side, sustained significant damage and was deemed a total loss.

Further investigation

After talking with the initial witnesses, law enforcement began a neighborhood canvas in nearby residences to determine whether there were any potential witnesses and an autopsy was arranged to be conducted by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office.

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Around 3 a.m. July 19, Itasca County Sheriff's Office Investigator Matt Bothma spoke to a witness, referred to in the complaint as K.M., who wished to provide additional information concerning the incident.

K.M. said that he had recently kicked Wilson out of his home because she was acting strange and fighting with others, including her sister. He came to believe that Wilson may have been involved in the fire and death of B.R. because on July 18 Wilson came to his home wearing clothing that was covered in blood.

Wilson had asked K.M. if she could shower, and K.M. said that as he and Wilson watched the smoke and burning camper, she made the comment that “He will not be able to hurt anybody again,” the complaint continued.

Evidence, including bloody clothing, Wilson’s ID, a pair of scissors and a blood-stained notebook bearing B.R.’s name was recovered after officers spoke to K.M., the documents added.

Law enforcement received a report that Wilson emerged from the woods west of the crime scene and she was detained by law enforcement at approximately 4:30 p.m. on July 19.

Wilson experienced a medical situation and was transported to the emergency room in Deer River where she was treated and cleared for release.

Interviewing Wilson

Lt. Christopher Peterson and BCA agent Ricky Wuori conducted a joint interview with Wilson at the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office where she agreed to speak with law enforcement about what happened in Ball Club.

The complaint details that Wilson explained the following:

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On Sunday, July 17, she attended the Mii Gwitch Mahnomen Days powwow in Ball Club. She said that she used methamphetamine and alcohol Sunday morning. Sometime after the powwow on Sunday, she went to B.R.’s camper because she knew it was a place where she could get something to use whether meth or alcohol.

She didn’t know what time she went to B.R.’s but knew it was dark out and that she was alone. B.R. answered the door and Wilson went inside and recalled they may have used meth. She said no one else was at the camper and at some point, Wilson said she started to think that B.R. was going to attack her with a butcher knife.

Wilson said that she began to stab B.R. “multiple f--ing times” with a pair of scissors all over his chest, back, shoulders and head and then used her fists and punched and kicked B.R.

When asked how many times she stabbed him, she said “I just kept going. And if he tried to move, I’d do it again wherever I could reach.”

Wilson said that throughout the encounter both she and B.R. were yelling for help. At one point, B.R. fell to the floor and she may have landed directly on top of him with her full weight. Wilson showed law enforcement how she used her left forearm against B.R.’s throat and neck while he was prone on the floor while she was on top of him.

She also said that she head-butted B.R. and “pissed on him.” She said at some point they both fell asleep or went unconscious on the floor of the camper. She awoke next to B.R. on the floor and at one point she probed one of his stab wounds with her finger “because the entire experience seemed surreal.”

Wilson said that B.R. was laying on the floor with his feet toward the door and his head and hands toward the bed area. Wilson said B.R. was cold to the touch and that he was “dead.”

She said she found a lighter and lit the camper on fire by igniting curtains and a blanket that was on top of the bed. At one point, Wilson said she thought she was burning a witch. She said that the smoke was strong enough that she had to hold her breath to get out of the camper and she left B.R. laying on the floor.

She added that as she walked away and looked back at the camper, she thought “I really did that. What did I just do?” Wilson said she went to K.M.’s home and there would have been blood on her clothing. She said she may have cleaned up at home and put the bloody clothing in a bucket along with a notebook that had B.R.’s name on it.

Other details

A search warrant was executed to search the camper and recover items related to the incident. Officers noted a significant amount of blood on the floor of the camper and retrieved a pair of needle nose pliers. Officers noted that no butcher knife was present in the camper or surrounding area.

The medical examiner’s office classified the manner of death as a homicide with the cause of death as being multiple blunt, sharp and asphyxial injuries including several broken ribs.

Records indicate that Wilson was previously convicted in March 2006 with a felony for aiding an offender on probation, in October 2012 with a felony for theft by swindle and in March 2018 with a felony for fifth-degree controlled substance.

The Itasca County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation with assistance from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and other local law enforcement agencies. Anyone with information regarding the incident is encouraged to contact the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office at (218) 326-3477.

Bail has been set at $1,000,000 without conditions and $500,000 with conditions based upon the seriousness of the offense and the potential risk to public safety if Wilson was released without the assurance of bail and conditions.

Wilson’s next court appearance is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTS
Annalise is the editor and a photographer at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a Mass Communication graduate from Bemidji State University. Her favorite pastime is exploring the great outdoors and capturing its natural beauty on camera. Contact Annalise at (218) 333-9796, (218) 358-1990 or abraught@bemidjipioneer.com.
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