A Burnsville man who shot and killed a 22-year-old Apple Valley man at a Rosemount car wash last year was found guilty Wednesday of second-degree intentional murder.
Dakota County District Judge Karen Asphaug announced the verdict against Jonas Gerald Grice, 28, on Wednesday morning in Hastings.
Neither Grice nor his family showed any emotion as Asphaug announced her verdict.
“This has been a courtroom of brokenhearted people,” the judge said before issuing her ruling, praising the families of both Grice and the victim, Anthony Hartman, for “conducting themselves with dignity, grace and understanding toward each other” throughout the case.
Grice, who was also charged with first-degree premeditated murder, previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, but claimed a mental illness defense.
Asphaug rejected the defense’s claim that Grice – who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2005 – was mentally ill to the extent that he didn’t know that his actions were wrong on July 12, 2010, when he shot Hartman at point-blank range.
“This was a shocking crime which senselessly took a life of a young man with a bright future,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom – who was in the courtroom Wednesday morning – said in a statement. “The defendant had a history of mental illness and violence in his past and should never have been carrying a weapon.”
According to court documents, Grice was “feeling paranoid” the morning of July 12, 2010, and put a .38-caliber handgun under the driver’s seat in his car before he left his home, intending to get the oil changed in his car. His mother had previously found the gun in the garage, but “did not take steps” to remove it from the home.
There were too many customers at the garage, and Grice “felt too paranoid” to stay there, so he drove to an auto shop to buy oil. When the shop didn’t have the oil he needed, he decided to get his car washed.
While he was washing his car, Grice experienced auditory hallucinations, hearing “moans and screams” coming from the tires of other vehicles on the road.
Hartman and a friend, Bradley Dotseth, arrived at the car wash while Grice was washing his car. Dotseth parked beside a vacuum cleaner in the car wash parking lot, and Dotseth walked into a vestibule to use a change machine.
Dotseth and Grice called each other names as Dotseth walked past, and Grice continued calling him names as Dotseth returned to his car. Another witness told authorities that when he walked in to use the change machine, he saw Grice, apparently upset with someone, with veins bulging on his neck. Grice shouted, “What the [expletive] are you looking at?” out the door toward the vacuum machine, where Dotseth’s car was parked.
The witness described Grice as “agitated and feisty, not confused or scared.”
Dotseth told Hartman that Grice was “taunting” him, and Hartman suggested that they both walk into the car wash to find out what was going on.
The two men confronted Grice, who had finished washing his car and was in the driver’s seat. Grice reached beneath the seat, retrieved his gun and tucked it in his waistband, then got out of the car.
Hartman said, “What’s your problem with my friend?” A pushing match ensued, with Hartman pushing Grice first, according to Dotseth.
After about 30 seconds, Dotseth ran out of the car wash bay and around the building, intending to close one of the car wash bay doors to trap Grice. As he entered the other door, he saw Hartman lying on the floor, with Grice standing nearby; several seconds later, Dotseth heard gunfire and Hartman screaming “at the top of his lungs” before and after the gun was fired.
Dotseth turned and ran to a nearby business, hearing continued gunshots as he ran.
Another witness told authorities that he heard the gunfire, looked toward the car wash and saw Grice standing in the open door of the car wash bay, holding a handgun. The witness said Grice looked directly at him, then turned, pointed the weapon down and fired two more shots.
Three of the four gunshots struck Hartman, who died at the scene. He was shot in the chest from a range of 3 to 4 feet, in the neck from less than a foot away and in the lower abdomen. Authorities said Hartman would have been able to speak and react after being shot in the chest, but the wound to his neck went through his carotid artery and would have incapacitated him immediately.
After the shooting, Grice drove away from the car wash and went to his girlfriend’s home in St. Paul. He showed her the gun and emptied the cylinder onto a bed; when his girlfriend realized that there were bullets missing, Grice said, “Self-defense.”
Grice’s girlfriend washed the fingerprints off the gun, wrapped it in a jacket and hid it in the attic. The two then ate dinner and watched the news on television, including a report on the Rosemount shooting. Grice repeatedly said, “Self-defense. That’s all I’m saying, self-defense.”
The next day, Grice returned to his parents’ Burnsville home. When his father saw the news reports about the shooting and the description of the suspect, he became suspicious that his son was involved. He asked Grice if he was involved and if he “started it;” Grice replied, “They came at me. They were saying some things and I guess it progressed from there.”
Grice’s parents convinced their son to turn himself in. When he arrived at the police station, Grice said, “It was in self-defense. That’s all I’m saying.”
Asphaug scheduled Grice’s sentencing for Jan. 4-5 and ordered a presentence investigation. If prosecutors request an upward departure from sentencing guidelines because of aggravating factors in the crime, a hearing on that request will be held Jan. 4, with sentencing Jan. 5; if no such hearing is necessary, Grice will be sentenced Jan. 5.
He faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.