Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2008

MN - Weeping Belle Plaine man pleads guilty to killing son

Anthony Klaseus shot his son, 8. His lawyer says the family is trying to begin healing after the turkey hunting accident.

By CHAO XIONG, Star Tribune
Last update: June 21, 2008 - 10:28 PM

GAYLORD, MINN. - In an emotional court hearing marked by tears, Anthony Klaseus solemnly pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon in Sibley County District Court to fatally shooting his 8-year-old son while turkey hunting.

Klaseus quietly answered, "That's correct" and "Yes" as he confirmed the events that led him to shoot Hunter Klaseus in the chest April 19. At one point, a deputy handed him tissue, and his attorney, Patrick Flanagan, patted him on his back as he hunched over and broke down in tears.

Klaseus pleaded guilty to felony second-degree manslaughter. Other charges, including reckless discharge of a firearm and misdemeanor charges of trespassing and hunting turkeys without a license, were dismissed.

The criminal complaint showed Klaseus, 40, had alcohol and marijuana in his system when he shot his son.

"It was a tough decision, debating whether to go to trial," Flanagan said after the court hearing. "In the end, Anthony just believed that this was the best result for him and his family so they can begin the important healing portion."

Flanagan said he and Klaseus were weighing the plea offer from the start but decided to accept it only an hour before Thursday's hearing.

Klaseus is on medication to help him cope with the emotional aftermath of the shooting and is also seeing a counselor, Flanagan said.

About eight of Klaseus' supporters appeared at the hearing, including his wife, Amber, his parents and a sister. Klaseus and his family declined to comment.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 25. The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and or $20,000 in fines. Flanagan declined to say what punishment Klaseus might receive.

The Klaseus family recently moved from Belle Plaine, Flanagan said, but still lives in the area.

According to the charges, Klaseus and Hunter were on the edge of a field east of Crahan Lane near County Road 6 in Sibley County about 5 p.m. when they spotted some turkeys. Klaseus told his son to stay put as he circled the field to approach them.

He called to the turkeys. They moved toward him. He heard something snap or break near him and then saw a figure rise up. He shot the object, thinking it was a turkey.

"Then my son jumped back up screaming and then fell back down," he told authorities.

Hunter, dressed in full camouflage, had wandered up near his father.

Klaseus took a breath test at the scene that registered a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.06 percent, the complaint said. A urine test revealed the presence of marijuana; the exact concentration was not disclosed.

Several partly empty beer packs and a marijuana pipe were found in his truck at the scene, the complaint said.

Last month in court, Klaseus was ordered not to consume alcohol, to submit to random testing for drugs and alcohol and was forbidden from possessing firearms.

Flanagan said the family has received about 80 letters of support from the community but struggles with the grief of losing Hunter. Klaseus also has two pre-teen daughters.

"It's pretty stressful, but [the family is] making it day by day," Flanagan said.

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