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Charges: Man broke into friend's home, killed him with his cane

Pieces of the victim's cane were found on his back, charges say.

A 40-year-old man is accused of breaking into his longtime family friend's home in Finlayson and beating him to death, possibly with the victim's cane. 

Jeremy Jones Richardson, 40, of Willow River, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and first-degree burglary in the death of 55-year-old Curtis Chromulak.

According to the criminal complaint, a friend of Chromulak hadn't heard from him since July 20, so he went to his house on July 25 to check on him. That's when he saw the victim dead on the floor in his home and called 911, saying he was beaten up and not breathing. 

The Pine County Sheriff's Office responded to the home at 11935 Pine Lake Road in Finlayson at about 1:31 p.m. on July 25. Chromulak was lying face down with "several pieces of a wooden object on his back, believed to be pieces of the victim's cane." 

Chromulak had multiple wounds to his back and his head that appeared to be impact wounds from a blunt object, charges state. The top of the victim's cane was found under his couch. 

The medical examiner determined Chromulak died of blunt force injuries to his head, neck and torso, including scalp lacerations, a fracture of the cervical spine and multiple rib fractures, the complaint says. 

At Chromulak's home, investigators found a broken window in the attached garage and muddy shoe tracks from the window into the house. There was blood on the wall under the window and on the refrigerator handle inside the home. The DNA in the blood matched Richardson's, the complaint says. 

Chromulak's friend told investigators Richardson and Chromulak had been fighting about an old snowmobile and the victim said he was scared because he'd been in an altercation with Richardson and was afraid of him being released from jail and coming to his house.

Chromulak told his friend he'd planned to get a restraining order against Richardson, who'd often stay at his home when they were drinking or when Richardson wasn't getting along with his father. 

Richardson has a history with the Pine County Sheriff's Office, including a fight between Richardson and Chromulak in a taxi on July 13 in which Richardson punched Chromulak, bloodying his face and arms. Chromulak said he didn't want Richardson to be charged. On July 14, Chromulak called police to report Richardson took property from his home, saying he wanted him charged with theft and assault from the night before.

In an interview with investigators, Richardson's dad said Chromulak had recently been calling and threatening him, and his son was aware of the threats. Another witness told investigators Richardson was upset that Chromulak was making threats, saying "you don't [expletive] with my family."

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Suspect admits going to victim's home

Richardson was arrested on July 25 on an unrelated incident. Someone called 911 to report seeing Richardson pushing a four-wheeler down the street in Finlayson, and when officers found him, he admitted he'd been drinking. He was arrested at the request of his Minnesota Department of Corrections agent for violating a no use of alcohol condition. 

Officers noticed his right hand appeared swollen and he had a cut on the top of his finger. When he was arrested, Richardson removed his shoes, saying he wanted to throw them away before going to jail because they were wet and smelled. 

In subsequent interviews with investigators, Richardson described Chromulak as a longtime family friend and occasionally became emotional when talking about him. 

Richardson said on July 23 he got a ride to Chromulak's house but the victim told him to leave, so he walked away after grabbing his ladder. He later told investigators he went back to Chromulak's home and broke a garage window to get some food from the freezer, noting he ate pie in the kitchen. He claimed he couldn't see anyone else in the home, and decided to go through the window because he didn't want Chromulak to see him and tell him to leave again. 

He said he believed he went back to his friend's house, but couldn't remember what he did there. He then became agitated and asked to go back to his cell, charges say. 

A witness who was at Chromulak's home on July 23 told investigators Richardson stopped by and they told him to leave, noting he grabbed his ladder from the yard and walked away, the complaint says. She left a few minutes later planning to give Richardson a ride to his friend's house but did not see him on the road. When she stopped by the friend's house, Richardson wasn't there, which surprised her. 

Surveillance video from a nearby home shows a person, believed to be Richardson, carrying a ladder around 7:36 p.m. on July 23, charges say. A person is then seen at 9:09 p.m. walking toward the victim's house.

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