Cloquet man admits to 2000 murder
It took him nearly 13 years to admit it, but before a full St. Louis County courtroom, Joseph John Couture testified today that he beat and stabbed Trina Louise Langenbrunner to death on Sept. 3, 2000.
Couture, 42, of Cloquet pleaded guilty to intentional second-degree murder, first-degree aiding and abetting aggravated witness tampering, and aiding and abetting first-degree arson.
Judge Dale Harris accepted the plea agreement reached between the defendant and the St. Louis County Attorney's Office and immediately sentenced Couture to nearly 40 years in prison.
Under terms of the plea agreement, Couture was sentenced to 386 months in prison on the murder conviction and 86 months in prison for the witness-tampering conviction, to be served one after the other. He was sentenced to 129 months in prison on the arson conviction, to be served at the same time as the murder conviction.
Assistant St. Louis County Attorneys Jessica Smith and Jon Holets prosecuted the case. Public defender Cynthia Evenson represented Couture.
Langenbrunner, a 33-year-old mother of three, last was seen hitchhiking in the area of Brookston Road between 1:30 and 2 a.m. on Sept. 3, 2000. Couture was a neighbor of Langenbrunner at the time. The victim's beaten and stabbed body was discovered off a rural road in southern St. Louis County.
St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin read a prepared statement outside the courthouse after the hearing. He said his office credited the "unwavering commitment of law enforcement in the successful prosecution of this case. The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are to be commended for a a job well done. Their compassionate perseverance ensured a just conclusion for this family and community," he said.
Trina Louise (St. Germaine) Langenbrunner was born Sept. 12, 1966, in St. Paul and attended Humboldt High School there. She was a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe and worked as a home health aide while living in Cloquet.