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Darren Stebe given life sentence in 2019 murder case, victims remembered in court

Darren Lloyd Stebe, 47, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder for the slayings of 39-year-old Adam Thorpe of Maple Grove, Minn., and 41-year-old Jason McDonough of the Superior, Wis., area.

Darren Stebe WEB.jpg
Darren Stebe

BEMIDJI -- Three years after their murders, family members on Thursday shared loving tributes of Adam Thorpe and Jason McDonough inside the Beltrami County Courthouse.

McDonough, 41, of the Superior, Wis., area, was described as kind and a good friend, who “would give you the shirt off his back.” Thorpe, 39, of Maple Grove, Minn., was remembered as caring and a good listener with an infectious smile.

Their lives were taken on Jan. 28, 2019, by Darren Stebe, 47, who pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder while committing aggravated robbery, according to the Beltrami County Attorney’s Office. Stebe was sentenced on Jan. 6 to two 360-month sentences, or 30 years, which will be served concurrently.

Stebe is credited with 1,067 days served and will be eligible for parole after his sentences are complete.

“The board should always deny parole,” said Peter Thorpe, Adam’s father, who was one of eight family members to read victim impact statements to the court.

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Peter said he was estranged from his son but always had hope but reconciliation, but “it’s no longer possible due to his cold blooded murder.”

During a plea hearing with Judge John Melbye on Wednesday, Stebe admitted to luring McDonough to his home just off State Highway 89 northwest of Bemidji with the intent to rob him. He also said that McDonough was accompanied by Thorpe and admitted to shooting them both after he asked McDonough for money and he refused.

After killing the victims, the criminal complaint said Stebe cut up at least one of them and then burned both their bodies in a fire pit at his residence. The complaint indicates the killing was related to the trafficking of methamphetamine.

“This was by far the most disturbing and chilling case in my career,” said Chief Assistant County Attorney David Frank. “The only just sentences for Mr. Stebe are life sentences.”

Stebe also had a significant criminal history. He had gotten out of prison the year before the murders after serving seven years, 2011 to 2018, for a felony drug charge. His criminal history also includes a number of burglaries and domestic assault.

Aiding murder

Stebe's girlfriend at the time of the murders, Kristi Trisco, and associate Daniel Linde have also entered guilty pleas for their involvement in the case.

Trisco and Linde are set to be sentenced at 2 p.m. on Jan. 27, according to court documents.

Trisco will be sentenced for two counts of aiding murder in the second degree and Linde for two counts of aiding an offender after the fact with second-degree murder as the underlying charge.

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Trisco was living with Stebe at the Highway 89 residence at the time of the murders. Investigators found a text message on Stebe’s phone that was sent to Trisco, indicating she knew of the murders, according to a criminal complaint. Trisco also made multiple purchases with the $5,000 stolen from McDonough and Thorpe.

The criminal complaint states that Linde helped Stebe move the body parts into the firepit in an effort to dispose of the bodies.

Remembering the victims

The mothers of both Jason and Adam spoke in court along with cousins and other family members.

“Everyone always had great things to say about him,” said Susan McDonough, Jason’s mother.

Susan said she raised Jason as a single mother and that he was very artistic. She has another son, who’s now 27, and she had hoped Jason could be a father figure to him.

“It’s hard to put in your brain that someone would do this to your son,” Susan said. “I wish he was still here.”

Jason’s aunt also spoke and said that Stebe knew Jason was close to his family and that he would have been 44 on Sunday as Jan. 9 was his birthday.

Adam, who was a father and known DJ in the Twin Cities area, was also remembered by his mother, Adrienne Thorpe-Emerson, who said he was instrumental in the house music scene in Minneapolis.

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“He was a father who will not get to see his son anymore,” she said. “It’s difficult for a mom to lose a child because you don’t just lose him once, you lose him every day, maybe more.

“It’s like an electric shock that rips out your heart.”

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at (218) 333-9786, (218) 996-1216 or at jgandsey@bemidjipioneer.com.
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