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Alcohol-fueled brawl kills Cass Lake man, injures two

CASS LAKE – A day of drinking alcohol to near-fatal excess ended in a bloody melee that left one man dead after a severe beating.

Leslie Headbird, 44, was beaten so badly Thursday night that police were not able to revive him when they arrived at 1315 Quill Lane SE, the same street on which the man lived. Headbird, known around Cass Lake as “Les,” was killed in a maelstrom of fists, police said.

Police would not say whether a weapon was used in the fatal bludgeoning.

Damion John Gullickson Jr., 18, and Dora Jean Keezer, 29, were arrested for the crime not long after Headbird’s death. Both were booked into the Beltrami County Jail on charges of second-degree murder. They are expected to be formally charged with murder and lesser felony assault counts on Monday, a spokeswoman for the Beltrami County Attorney’s Office said.

An unidentified 33-year-old man, along with Headbird’s mother, Gloria Headbird, 62, was injured in the fight. Both were taken to Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, where they were listed in good condition Friday, according to Sanford spokeswoman Kari Knudson.

The trailer on Quill Lane where Headbird’s lifeless body was found was quiet Friday afternoon compared to the chaos that enveloped the lot 24 hours earlier.

At 2:45 p.m. Thursday, Leonard Dean Headbird, 37, a relative of Les Headbird’s, and Tressa Lee Bisonette, 39, were arrested after police responded to reports of disorderly conduct at the home. Leonard Headbird was arrested for violating a no-drink order, and Bisonette for child endangerment. A young boy was found at the home, and taken into protective custody, said Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp.

Both Leonard Headbird and Bisonette had blood-alcohol levels of .330, and several people given breathalyzers following the discovery of Headbird’s death blew at, or above, .40.

“Most people would have died at that alcohol level,” Hodapp said.

Police were called back to the home just after 6:30 p.m. to break up a fight involving more than a dozen people. There, they found a chaotic and bloody scene. Among the carnage and injured bodies was Les Headbird, whose exact cause of death has yet to be released.

Headbird’s sister, Jodi Bellanger, expressed dismay at her brother’s death.

“We’re just in shock, and we’re still grieving,” she said.

Bellanger wouldn’t comment on the events that led to the killing, saying authorities had asked family members not to discuss the incident. Headbird left behind several children, including one named after himself. Leslie Headbird Jr.’s mother, Renee Jackson, died in July 2012. Her cause of death was not immediately available.

Gullickson was identified as a suspect in Headbird’s death fairly quickly, police said. He was found in Cass Lake after stopping a moving car in an attempt to steal the vehicle and trying to break into a home. He was taken to Cass Lake Hospital and treated for minor injuries before being interrogated and booked at the jail. Police did not say where or when Keezer was arrested, or what her involvement in the scrum may have been.

Following Gloria Headbird and the 33-year-old unidentified male’s admission to the emergency room at Sanford, the hospital was put on lockdown as a precautionary measure.

“There was much concern,” Hodapp said, citing information police received that a possible retaliation for the fight was in the works, with the hospital as a potential battleground.

Sanford remained on lockdown at 9 p.m. Thursday, but police there at that time said no one had arrived for a possible retaliation.

Headbird’s death is the first homicide in Beltrami County since 2010, when Timothy Kenneth Lundberg was sentenced for the second-degree murder of 7-month-old Ayven Jayce Shepard.

Headbird’s death does not appear to be gang-related, police said.

The wooded lot, on which the last moments of Les Headbird's life violently ticked away, was silent Friday. Its serenity belied the brutal scene that played out there the night before. It was blocked by crime-scene tape, and a large pile of discarded alcohol containers lay not far from the home.

For now, police believe Headbird’s death is a tragedy born of intoxication.

“You just can’t apply logic to drunken behavior,” Hodapp said.


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