Bemidji Pioneer 

Fairbanks convicted for Deputy Dewey's murder, faces mandatory life in prison


CROOKSTON, Minn. - A jury today convicted Thomas Lee Fairbanks in the first-degree murder of Mahnomen County Deputy Sheriff Chris Dewey.

“When an officer falls in the line of duty, all Minnesotans share in the loss," Attorney General Lori Swanson said in a news release. "Deputy Dewey made the ultimate sacrifice to protect others. Nothing can bring him back, but I hope this conviction brings a measure of justice for Deputy Dewey’s family, the law enforcement community, and all of Minnesota.”

The Minnesota Attorney General's Office prosecuted Fairbanks in the case, which was heard by a Polk County jury in Crookston, at the request of Mahnomen County officials.

The jury returned with the verdict about 3:45 p.m.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

This morning, the jury resumed deliberations and asked to listen to a 10-minute audio recording of law enforcement officers during the 2009 standoff.

On the recording, some of the dozens of officers from several agencies who responded to the shooting of Mahomen County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Dewey Feb. 18, 2009, in Mahnomen, Minn., could be heard talking about hearing a gunshot fired from Fairbanks’ trailer home.

The recording was done from about 9:10 a.m. - or about two hours after Fairbanks shot Dewey outside a house across the street - when several officers on the perimeter of the standoff testified they heard a gunshot from Fairbanks’ home.

The jury deliberated three hours Wednesday night after listening to closing statements by prosecutors and Fairbanks' attorney.

Fairbanks, 34, shot Dewey once in the head and twice in the torso about 7:04 a.m. Feb. 18, 2009. The deputy died Aug. 9, 2010.

During the trial, the autopsy physician said Dewey died of complications from the gunshot wound to his head, which destroyed nearly a third of his brain.

State District Judge Jeff Remick told the jury that to find Fairbanks guilty of the charge, it must find that his “act had a substantial part in bringing about the death” of Dewey.

“It is not necessary that (Fairbanks’) act be the sole cause of death so long as (his) act starts a chain of events which results in or substantially contributes to the death.”

It’s not necessary for Fairbanks’ act to be premeditated in order for him to be guilty of first-degree murder, Remick told jurors.

Once the verdict was read this afternoon, prosecutors asked Remick to sentence Fairbanks, who turns 35 this month, immediately. Defense attorneys asked for time to file an appeal.

Remick is meeting with both sides and will rule on when sentencing will be held. The judge said he wants to move the sentencing back to Mahnomen, Minn., where Fairbanks shot Dewey, because of the many victims there, as well as Fairbanks' family and friends.

The venue of the trial was moved to Crookston because of concerns about pretrial publicity.

The jury of five women and seven men also found Fairbanks guilty of four of six charges of first-degree assault on a peace officer for allegedly shooting the same gun toward the officers during the ensuing standoff in February 2009.

The first-degree assault of a peace officer carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Fairbanks also was found guilty of failing to assist Dewey after he was shot, being a felon in possession of a firearm and trying to steal Dewey's squad car after he shot him in the head and torso.

Fairbanks' mother, Roberta Fairbanks, was held on each side by a friend and a sister, and sobbed after the verdict. The courtroom was cleared to let seven relatives and friends of Fairbanks stand across the wooden panel from him. Fairbanks' face began to crumple and he cried as he looked at his mother.


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