Man charged in Lake Hattie death
By Sarah Smith
An unknown relationship between two Hubbard County men has led to the death of one and murder charges against the other.
According to Hubbard county authorities, the body of James Michael Schwartzbauer, 57, was recovered from a fire in a home on Beauty Lake in Lake Hattie Township May 31. A coroner’s report concluded Schwartzbauer was dead of shotgun injuries before the fire started.
Firefighters arrived at the home at 5:30 on the morning of May 31 to find the home fully engulfed.
A man who identified himself as Fredrick William Bachman, 26, was on the scene. Bachman, according to the criminal complaint filed against him last week, said he awoke to the sound of a smoke detector and rushed to put out the fire.
The complaint noted that Bachman was fully clothed at the scene and had managed to salvage several items of personal property and move three vehicles out of the way by the time firefighters arrived on the scene.
“The personal items included his computer, alcohol bottles, pipe and tobacco, firearm and a samurai sword,” the complaint indicated. Bachman told conflicting stories of trying to rescue his roommate of the past four years, Schwartzbauer.
“Neither Bachman nor any of his personal belongings smelled of smoke,” the criminal complaint states.
His behavior at the fire scene raised several red flags to authorities.
“Witnesses at the fire scene reported that Bachman was calm and did not show any emotion until he discovered that one of his bottles of alcohol was broken and then Bachman became very upset,” the criminal complaint states.
Sheriff Cory Aukes said the fire and Schwartzbauer’s death were “kept under wraps” for two weeks, which allowed authorities to complete their investigation.
Last Wednesday Bachman was arrested at his mother’s home in the Minneapolis area.
He was returned to Hubbard County, where he was arraigned Friday on a charge of Second Degree Murder. Bail was set at $1 million unconditional; $600,000 with numerous conditions attached such as Bachman having no contact with alcohol, drugs or the crime scene. He is not allowed to leave the state.
The Lakes Area Dive Team recovered a shotgun about 38 feet in the lake.
“The shotgun receiver chamber easily cycled, which would be consistent with the shotgun being in the water a short period of time,” the complaint stated.
“Family members of the decedent reported the shotgun that was found in the lake matched a shotgun belonging to the decedent,” the complaint states.
“Bachman stated that the decedent was his best friend and that he loved him but that the night of May 30th and early hours of May 31st they had an argument that escalated and became heated,” the complaint states.
Schwartzbauer was a licensed foster care provider and social worker in Ramsey County who moved to Beauty/Hattie Lake around 1999. The adjacent lakes in northwest Hubbard County were among the last lakes to be developed. The area actually has a Laporte address but is north of Lake Alice.
By 2001 Schwartzbauer was living in a large house on the property and had six foster sons living with him there.
Three of the teenage boys allegedly spoke of sexual abuse and charges were eventually filed against Schwartzbauer in April 2001.
County commissioner Greg Larson, then the county attorney, remembers the case well.
He said the accusers were very troubled teens who’d been in and out of foster homes.
Two Ramsey County social workers testified on Schwartzbauer’s behalf that the accusers, who alleged inappropriate touching, kissing and other activities, had credibility problems and had been moved numerous times.
By the time of the omnibus hearing, Larson knew his case was troubled by the teens’ history of lying.
Larson speculated the boys had changed their stories because they liked living with Schwartzbauer and didn’t want to be moved again.
According to Enterprise accounts of the trial, Schwartzbauer testified that he was “asexual” and was not gay or straight.
He was acquitted of all the charges following a weeklong trial. No records exist of the matter because “Schwartzbauer petitioned to have the records expunged,” Larson said.
At the time, he wanted to regain his foster license. But there is no record he returned to the profession and he suggested after his acquittal that maybe he’d try something new.
Jurors, according to Enterprise coverage of the trial, had difficulty convicting Schwartzbauer based on the confusing and changing testimony of the teens. Allegedly three other boys living in the house made no claims of abuse.
Larson said one of the victims returned to Hubbard County to assault Schwartzbauer in revenge, but the case wasn’t prosecuted.
In January 2011, Schwartzbauer appeared before the Hubbard County Planning Commission to convert a resort on Hattie and Beauty Lakes to a Planned Unit Development. At the same time he was converting the large house to a “hermit retreat center” that some labeled a home for alcoholics.
He was looking at a 20-year plan that would have called for building 24 cabins. The proposal was tabled for him to return with more information.
“I have no idea” what became of the project, Environmental Services officer Eric Buitenwerf said in an email Friday.
Fredrick William Bachman has a troubled past, mostly in Anoka and Ramsey counties.
In 2006 he pled guilty to domestic assault, interfering with a 911 call and obstructing the legal process. He received a stayed sentence and was ordered to have no contact with the female victim, get psychological counseling and refrain from alcohol use and not possess a firearm. That year there were also some alcohol-related charges.
In 2007 he incurred a traffic violation and another conviction for domestic abuse. He was given 20 days in jail for violating a protection order. The jail term was suspended if he paid the fine in a timely manner.
In 2008 he pled guilty to a domestic assault and sentenced to the Ramsey County Workhouse, where records indicate he served nearly a year.
One month before that conviction he entered guilty plea to leaving the scene of an accident and some type of public nuisance charge. It appears from the court record that he served both sentences at the workhouse concurrently with the domestic assault.
In 2009 he faced numerous charges arising from an arrest on a motorcycle, mainly reckless driving. The case took three years to wind through the legal system. Bachman’s fine was eventually turned over to a collection agency. He was ordered to serve five days in jail.
“Bachman’s brother, who was a juvenile in 2001, was allegedly abused by the decedent in 2001 when Bachman’s brother was placed with the decedent as a foster child,” the criminal complaint stated. “Bachman told the Fire Marshal that the reported allegations did not include his juvenile brother as a victim.”
Larson said the Bachman name didn’t sound familiar to him, but said one of the boys in the house at the time was 12 or 13 years old.
Judge Paul Rasmussen was set to review Bachman’s bail on Tuesday, the day this article went to press.
Meanwhile, Larson said he got a phone call a month ago from Schwartzbauer about the expunged records. Larson said it had to do with part of the file, the BCA reports, not being expunged.
Only the charges were.
“I couldn’t help him,” Larson said, adding he didn’t know why the former defendant was calling him after all these years.
Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne said he could not comment on the relationship between the two men, or Bachman’s alleged involvement with the 2001 case.