BEMIDJI -- In the presence of uniformed officers, plainclothes investigators and the family members of two slain victims, 45-year-old Darren Stebe walked into the Beltrami County courthouse in chains Friday to be arraigned on two counts of second-degree murder.
Judge John Melby set bail in the amount of $1 million with conditions, and $1.5 million without conditions. Stebe’s next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 10. Until then, the Bemidji man is expected to be sent back to the Minnesota Department of Corrections in Stillwater.
The charges allege Stebe killed 39-year-old Adam Thorpe of Maple Grove, Minn., and 41-year-old Jason McDonough of the Superior, Wis. area, earlier this year.
After killing the victims, the criminal complaint alleges Stebe cut up at least one of them and then burned both their bodies in a fire pit at a residence just off State Highway 89 northwest of Bemidji. The criminal complaint indicates the killing was related to the purchase of methamphetamine.
In addition to Stebe’s charges, both 31-year-old Kristi Trisco of Bemidji and 54-year-old Daniel Linde of Cass Lake have each been charged with two counts of aiding an offender after the fact.
Thorpe’s mother, Adrienne Thorpe-Emerson, was one of the family members who came to the hearing. Although she did not speak during the hearing, she had prepared written remarks and gave a copy to the Pioneer.
“These have been some of the most difficult months of my life. One is never prepared to lose a child no matter their age,” Thorpe-Emerson’s statement said, which went on to mention that she trusts that justice will be served.
Before Melby announced the bail amount, prosecutor Dave Frank asked him to set it at $1 million for each of the two counts.
Defense Attorney Kassius Benson didn’t make an alternate request, indicating it would be just as easy to postpone the discussion of bail since Stebe is still serving out the sentence on an unrelated charge.
Stebe was convicted of a first-degree drug sale in 2010 and was sentenced to more than a decade, but received supervised release after serving a portion of the sentence.
Stebe was arrested in early February for violating the terms of that release once investigators connected him to the death of the two victims in the current case.
Although he didn’t challenge the bail outright, Benson did ask the judge to make an exception to the condition that prohibits Stebe from interacting with either of his co-defendants. Benson said that Stebe and Trisco are married, and he asked the court “not to interfere with that relationship.”
Frank said he was unaware of any marriage between the two defendants, but he clarified that Stebe was not married when he was arrested in early February. Frank further indicated that Trisco already has been arraigned on her charge and that she had “best hope she has not had contact” with Stebe since that could have been an infraction of her own conditions.
Although it was not shown or discussed in Friday’s hearing, a marriage certificate obtained from Beltrami County shows that Stebe and Trisco were legally married on June 9, after Stebe was already incarcerated in Stillwater.
The charges against Trisco were filed on July 29, and her arraignment was July 30, which was more than a month after the marriage license was filed.
Melby said he may revisit the issue later on, but currently the two defendants are not allowed to have contact, regardless of their marital status.