A third suspect has pleaded guilty in a 2021 home invasion in which a Dakota County man was murdered.
Nicholas Alan Taylor, a 29-year-old St. Paul resident, is one of four people who were charged in the death of 55-year-old Chris LaFontaine, whose body was discovered on July 2 bound and gagged in the bathroom of his Greenvale Township home.
Authorities had been called to the home to investigate a burglary in progress, with a neighbor having witnessed two males running from the residence and leaving in a white Dodge Durango that was later confirmed to belong to LaFontaine, prosecutors say.
Deputies soon tracked down the Durango and attempted to pull it over, but the three people inside the vehicle ditched it and fled on foot. Two of those people, Timothy Tuit and Stephanie Marie Peabody, were apprehended a short time later.
Taylor was later arrested in Montana along with a fourth suspect, Ryann Elizabeth Smith.
According to the charges, Peabody, a 25-year-old Welch resident, told investigators that Taylor and Smith had talked about having a "guy tied up," with Taylor saying he "tied him up so tight he could not get loose" and Smith sharing that she had hit him in the head with a Maglite flashlight because the victim "wouldn't shut up."
Peabody also said that when Smith learned the victim had died, she panicked and started crying because she "didn't mean to hurt him like that," charges say.
An autopsy later determined that the victim had suffered "an asphyxia type death."
Peabody and Tuit, 36, ultimately pleaded guilty to aiding an offender. They're scheduled to be sentenced on May 11.
Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced on June 2. He is currently being held in a Dakota County jail without bail, a news release says.
“We are pleased that Mr. Taylor has taken responsibility for his role in the senseless death of Mr. Lafontaine," said Dakota County Attorney Kathy Keena in the release. "Our deepest sympathy is extended to Mr. Lafontaine’s family for their loss.”
Meanwhile, the trial for Ryann Elizabeth Smith is scheduled to begin May 23, 2022. She's charged with second-degree murder without intent and while committing a felony, along with aiding and abetting an offender.
According to a GoFundMe set up by the victim's sister, Chris LaFontaine was a father and grandfather who "was always there for people."
"He’d go out of his way to help a friend or neighbor in need. Which makes it even more difficult to learn that the people that killed him were at one point considered to be friends."