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Murder charge filed in connection with inmate's death at Chisago County Jail

The man suddenly became unresponsive and died while in a holding cell.
John Hofer.

John Hofer.

A Minnesota man now faces a murder charge in connection with a Chisago County Jail inmate's death over the summer.

John Hofer of Stacy, Minnesota, was charged in Chisago County Tuesday with third-degree murder, according to court records. Prosecutors allege the 37-year-old sold methamphetamine to a man who died from methamphetamine toxicity on July 22, while in custody at the Chisago County Jail.

The man who died was identified as 51-year-old Erik Nielsen of St. Paul.

According to the charges: 

A Chisago County deputy arrested him on a felony warrant just after 3 a.m. on July 22. The deputy booked Nielsen into the jail about an hour later, and over the next couple of hours, jail staffers didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Nielsen, at one point, was even doing stretches in the call.

But at around 6:35 a.m., a correctional officer notice Nielsen breathing heavily, but awake. The officer brought Nielsen some water, and within five minutes Nielsen began falling unconscious. The officer called an EMS and they attempted life-saving measures, but Nielsen was pronounced dead around 7:35 a.m.

An autopsy conducted later that day determined Nielsen died from methamphetamine toxicity. Authorities reviewed in-squad video from Nielsen's arrest and, after being placed in the back seat, he can be seen reaching down to his socks for an object, then putting it in his mouth and chewing. He then swallows it.

During the autopsy, the medical examiner found a perforated plastic baggie in Nielsen's stomach.

Investigators found a message conversation on Nielsen's phone between him and Hofer, discussing a sale. They also spoke with an associate of Hofer, who said he'd been selling meth and that Nielsen had purchased drugs from Hofer the night before his death. Hofer, the associated said, was also nervous about the investigation into Nielsen's death, 

Hofer was arrested Wednesday, the Chisago County Sheriff's Office said, and made his first court appearance that morning. His next court date is scheduled for Oct. 6 at 9 a.m.

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