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Brother and sister guilty in 2020 murder of Lino Lakes man

Karl Henderson, 22, was fatally shot in a robbery gone wrong.
Melissa Zielinski and Nicholas Zielinski

With the delivery of a guilty verdict this past week, a pair of Minnesota siblings are headed for sentencing over a deadly robbery-gone-wrong in Lino Lakes. 

On Thursday, an Anoka County jury found Melissa Zielinski, a 48-year-old Sandstone resident, guilty of aiding and abetting first-degree intentional murder while committing aggravated robbery. This comes about a month after her brother, Nicholas Zielinski of Hermantown, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the August 2020 death of 22-year-old Karl Henderson.

According to the charges, the victim's father arrived home from grocery shopping the day of the murder to find an unknown male and female — later identified as the Zielinskis — in his kitchen. When he asked who they were and why they were there, the man told him “your son stole on me” and “I’ll take you out, too.” The pair then left and drove off in a black SUV, after which Henderson's father found his son face-down in a pool of blood in his bedroom. 

First responders soon arrived but declared the younger Henderson dead at the scene.  

Police ultimately tracked down the suspects with the help of neighborhood doorbell cameras as well as DNA evidence from the handgun left at the scene, the charges say. 

According to a news release from the Anoka County Attorney's Office, Nicholas Zielinski, 44, testified in both a plea hearing and at his sister's trial that the two went to Henderson's home with the intent of robbing him at gunpoint, with Melissa Zielinski binding Henderson with "restraints."

He went on to testify that Henderson broke free of those restraints and lunged for Nicholas's gun, at which point there was a scuffle. He admitted to firing two shots, with one hitting Henderson in the chest. 

Though the brother fired the weapon, prosecutors say it was his sister who "planned and orchestrated" the robbery.

Both Zielinskis are scheduled to be sentenced on March 23. Melissa Zielinski is facing a presumptive sentence of life without the possibly of parole due to the guilty verdict on the first-degree murder charge. Under a plea agreement, Nicholas Zielinski will receive a sentence of just under 20 years.

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