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Northern Minn. man charged in random fatal stabbing saying Jesus told him to do it

Tom Olsen

Forum News Service

HIBBING, Minn. — A 54-year-old Hibbing man was killed after a Grand Rapids man apparently knocked on his door at random and stabbed him 15 times saying he did it because Jesus asked him to, according to charges filed Thursday.

A criminal complaint identifies the victim of the early Tuesday morning homicide as Joel Dean Gangness.

Authorities said Gangness was found dead inside his apartment at the old Star Motel building, 3901 First Ave., shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday. An autopsy determined that he had been stabbed multiple times.

Benjamin David Lundquist, 32, was arraigned Thursday morning in State District Court in Hibbing on a charge of intentional second-degree murder.

Authorities said he admitted to stabbing Gangness in the back 15 times and hitting him over the head with a DVD player.

Sixth Judicial District Judge David Ackerson granted the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office’s request to set Lundquist’s bail at $1 million.

The judge also indicated that a mental health evaluation likely will be ordered at some point.

Police were called to the residence on Tuesday when it was reported that Gangness, a carrier for the Hibbing Daily Tribune, had not made his newspaper deliveries that morning. A coworker and his family had been unable to get a hold of him.

Authorities said Gangness was found deceased on the floor with a number of injuries, including apparent stab wounds. Blood was found in a number of locations.

Investigators spoke with other tenants of the building, including a neighbor who said a white male with tattoos on both sides of his neck showed up at his apartment at approximately 10 a.m. The male reportedly said, “Oops, wrong door,” and left, according to the complaint.

Another tenant reported seeing a “strange male” wandering around the parking lot that night and showed investigators several footprints in the snow.

Investigators said they visited the Lucky Seven gas station next door and learned that the night staff had become suspicious of a man who had been in and near the store for several hours that night. Surveillance video showed the man wandering around the store, exiting and reentering before making a purchase, according to the complaint.

Police learned that a credit card used in the purchase was registered to Lundquist and that he also stopped at the Hibbing Walmart at approximately 2 a.m., the charges state. The man shown in surveillance video from both stores appeared to match the description given by the tenants, investigators said.

Law enforcement went to Lundquist’s Grand Rapids apartment, where they found footprints matching those outside the Hibbing apartment building, according to the charges. A notice was issued to area agencies, and Lundquist was taken into custody outside a convenience store in Nashwauk.

Investigators said he appeared to have dried blood on his blue jeans, which he claimed to be his own.

Lundquist agreed to a formal interview at Hibbing Police Department headquarters and initially stated that he had not been to Hibbing in months, according to the complaint. When shown a picture of Gangness, he denied knowing him.

When Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents showed the defendant images from the surveillance videos, Lundquist allegedly admitted that he had been dropped off at the Lucky Seven gas station. He stated that he went into the store and waited, then walked to Walmart and eventually Keewatin, according to the complaint.

After initially denying that he visited the apartment building, investigators said Lundquist stated, “I did it.” He allegedly went on to say that there was a fight and that he stabbed a male, whom he did not know, because “Jesus directed him to do it.”

He said he chose door No. 12 because “everything came to 12,” according to the charges. Lundquist stated that he “at first didn’t think he would kill him,” but then “lost it” and hit him with the DVD player. He said Gangness tried to run toward the door and that he grabbed a knife and stabbed him 15 times, according to the complaint.

Gangness allegedly admitted to stealing a bobblehead and box cutter, which police said were recovered during his arrest. He also said he took a cellphone, which he later discarded, according to the charges.

Lundquist made a brief court appearance on the charge Thursday. He calmly recited his name, address and birthdate, but did not otherwise speak.

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