ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — More than two years after Steven “Beaver” Hlinsky died from injuries he suffered after being beaten outside the Muddy Boot Bar in Forada, Minn., one of his assailants, Jacob Larson, 35, of Kensington, Minn., was finally sentenced.
Larson was sentenced Monday, Aug. 3, in Douglas County District Court by Judge Timothy Churchwell to 90 months — 7½ years — in jail. Two-thirds of his sentence must be served in jail, while the rest will be on supervised probation. Larson will also get credit for time already served, which is 207 days.
This past January, a 12-person jury found Jacob Larson guilty of first-degree manslaughter, and aiding and abetting first-degree manslaughter, both felony-level charges in the death of Hlinsky, 46. They also found Larson guilty of fifth-degree assault, and aiding and abetting fifth-degree assault, which are both misdemeanors. Larson was found not guilty of two counts — second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Churchwell said that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and that in this case, the bar camera footage was worth more as it showed that Larson intentionally tried to provoke Hlinsky.
“The footage shows you provoking him,” Churchwell said to Larson. “Your actions and intentions were clear.”
The judge also told Larson that there was a prolonged effort to try to get Hlinsky outside the bar for a fight and that it wasn’t something that just flared up.
“You and Traut (Troy Traut, the other defendant) had plenty of opportunity to separate yourself from Hlinsky and you failed,” Churchwell said to Larson. “You and Traut repeatedly tried to get him outside. You did and he sustained fatal injuries. Your action deserves a consequence.”
In addition to his jail sentence, Larson was also ordered to pay restitution of nearly $58,000 to Hlinsky's adult children, about $7,700 to Abby Hlinsky and more than $42,000 going to Dominic Hlinsky.
Traut, 35, of Pine River, formerly of Alexandria, pleaded guilty in June 2019 to a fifth-degree assault charge, one of six charges he was facing. As part of the deal, Traut agreed to testify against Larson, which he did.
On July 28 of this year, the judge rejected Traut’s plea for “lack of a sufficient factual basis.” Traut’s next court appearance is Thursday, Aug. 13.
There were 12 victim impact statements provided to Churchwell, but only two were read out loud at Monday’s hearing.
The letters were from Hlinsky’s daughter and his mother, Dorothy Hlinsky. They were read by Tara Ulmaniec, assistant county attorney.
Abby Hlinsky said her father was not only her only parent, but her biggest supporter and her best friend. She said her father had a heart of gold and was very active in the community of Forada, where he was a farmer, a firefighter, a first responder and the gambling manager.
“My dad was the first person to help anyone,” Abby said in her impact statement. “He went out of his way to make sure everyone was OK.”
The assault took place on May 5, 2018, and Hlinsky died eight days later, on May 13.
Because of the extent of his injuries, Abby’s father didn’t know what happened to him and, because it was an open investigation, Abby said she couldn’t explain to him what happened and who had beaten him.
“My father died not knowing what happened to him,” she said.
She explained that he was in the hospital for a few days before she was able to bring him home. She stayed with him and took care of him during that time. The morning that he died, Abby said she had stepped outside for a moment when she heard a noise and rushed back into the house. Her father had fallen and was no longer breathing.
“I was performing CPR on him and then I laid with my father until they put him in a body bag,” Abby said in her statement. “I will never forget that moment.”
Abby said she will never understand what happened and now, he is not here to walk her down the aisle or get to meet his grandkids.
She also said she hopes the guilt Larson may feel will haunt him for the rest of his life and that no penalty will be enough.
Dorothy Hlinsky said it was hard to write her impact statement and that it was something she never imagined she would ever have to do.
“The loss of my son has been a great void in my life,” she wrote in her statement. “He was a wonderful son who has always been there for me.”
Dorothy said her son loved his family and was so very proud of his two children and that he was kind, loving and hardworking.
She said that her son passed away on Mother’s Day in 2018 and she no longer gets to hear him say Happy Mother’s Day to her or I love you.
“As of today, I can’t forgive you,” Dorothy said about the defendant, adding that she felt sorry for his mother but that at least she still has the opportunity to see or visit her son on Mother’s Day. “I don’t have that opportunity. I have to go to the cemetery.”
Dorothy Hlinsky said that her son, Steve, would live on forever in their hearts and that the defendant should get the maximum sentence.
Jacob Larson’s attorney, Todd Peterson of Sauk Rapids, read a letter from Larson who stated that it was a tragedy what happened to Hlinsky and that he was deeply sorry for it.
“I am sorry,” Larson stated in his letter. “But I am not asking forgiveness, I am asking for leniency.”