On the first day of his trial, a 29-year-old Hutchinson man has pleaded guilty to the murder of Christopher Rossing, who went missing outside a bar in Minnesota in August 2014.
Although appearing on charges of first degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and one count of kidnapping, Robert Nuttall pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree unintentional murder, KSTP reports.
Wright County Attorney Tim Kelly said that this was because there were so little remains of the body found near Nuttall's property they could not positively identify it as belonging to 25-year-old Rossing, of Annandale, and as such "we weren't able to tell the full story."
"Without a body, you don’t have the cause of death and manner of death, and we would have had to prove, number one that beyond a reasonable doubt it was Christopher Rossing, and that the defendant had the intent to affect the death during the course the kidnapping," he said.
The charges against Nuttall said he had fought with Rossing outside Troubles bar in Howard Lake just before Rossing vanished on Aug. 23, 2014. A few months later, investigators found remains near Nuttall's home.
KARE 11 reports Nuttall told the court that he had only intended to "harm" Rossing, not kill him, and that he admitted hiding the body to "conceal the unintentional murder."
The remains found near Nuttall's home were so badly burned that only bone fragments and teeth were found, with tests revealing that they were likely Rossing's.
Despite pleading guilty to a lesser charge, Nuttall has agreed he will serve a sentence of 22 years in prison, higher than the sentencing guidelines suggest.
Attorney unhappy with plea deal, apologizes to family
"We simply were not able to provide the whole story," Kelly said in a press release. "We could tell part of the story, but did not have the evidence to tell the whole story.The family of Christopher Rossing is upset with the negotiated plea and they have every right to be upset.
"My office isn’t satisfied with the final outcome of the negotiated plea, but it did provide certainty of a greater sentence on the unintentional homicide and hopefully some closure for the family," he added. "Again, our hearts go out to the family of Christopher Rossing."
KDUZ reports another person, 33-year-old Gwen Butcher, has also been charged in connection with Rossing's death, with second-degree aiding and abetting murder and second-degree aiding and abetting kidnapping.
The Star Tribune notes that the altercation had started at another bar in Howard Lake, when Rossing and Nuttall were flirting with the same woman.