Old case may be key to HC homicide
BY Sarah smith
An omnibus hearing for a Hubbard County man charged in the murder of his roommate has been pushed to August, but if history serves as a guide, the case will go to a grand jury.
And an old friend of the victim suggested James Schwartzbauer paid the ultimate price for his humanitarianism, taking in troubled young men.
Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne declined comment on whether he would take the case to a grand jury, but every murder case he has prosecuted in the past has headed to a citizen panel for upgraded charges.
Fredrick William Bachman has been charged by complaint with Second Degree murder. He is accused of the shotgun death of James Michael Schwartzbauer, 57. The two lived together in Lake Hattie Township. The Schwartzbauer home burned to the ground May 31, sometime after he was killed, and his body was found in the ashes. The cause of the fire is also under investigation.
In Minnesota only a grand jury can bring an indictment for First Degree murder, or any crime punishable by life in prison.
Most crimes, like the Second Degree Murder charge against Bachman, are filed by a complaint and prosecuted.
Grand juries, comprised of 16 to 23 persons, are selected “at random from a fair cross section of the residents of the county,” according to the law.
They serve a four-month term.
They hear the prosecutor present the case for the enhanced crime, and hear witness testimony in a trial-like setting, only more informal. They usually issue an indictment for First Degree Murder after deliberating.
Tuesday, Bachman quietly answered his attorney’s questions about his right to a speedy trial in Hubbard County District Court. He waived his right to have an omnibus hearing within 28 days of the charges being filed.
He is being held on $1 million unconditional bail or $600,000 conditional, with numerous conditions attached.
The recent case has re-opened an old wound, the 2001 charges against Schwartzbauer for criminal sexual conduct. He was acquitted after a one-week trial in Hubbard County.
He allegedly inappropriately touched three of six foster boys that were living with him at Lake Hattie.
“He was grooming them,” said Park Rapids attorney Greg Larson, who prosecuted the case.
Former Hubbard County investigator Jerry Tatro said the troubled teens made poor witnesses, which led to the acquittal.
“Some of them gave good statements from what I remember but when it came time to be cross-examined by defense attorneys on the stand it didn’t work out so well,” Tatro recalls of the trial.
Both Larson and Tatro said the boys, who had been bounced from foster home to foster home, wanted the sexual abuse to stop, but wanted to remain at Schwartzbauer’s home.
“They all said they loved him like a father and that they were happy living in his home and they feared the ‘family’ would split up,” a 2001 Enterprise article said about victims’ trial testimony.
Schwartzbauer testified that, “The boys I take into my home are usually those who are impossible to place. If they don’t make it with me, they go into the system and are stuck in long-term institutional care.”
An old friend of Schwartzbauer’s emailed the Enterprise to suggest the criminal charges were a colossal misunderstanding.
“I met Jim Schwartzbauer when he was a religion teacher at Epiphany Catholic Church in Coon Rapids while coaching basketball and baseball,” wrote Kevin Leonard in the email. “Jim had a calling to serve others. When Jim started his foster care ‘mission’ he took in the at risk children that had exhausted all other foster care options and were virtually impossible to place...
“Jim was in all probability their last hope,” Leonard continued. “This is where Jim felt he was most needed and where God was guiding him. I can say with confidence that the only intimate relationship Jim had on this earth was with God.
“After some time, Jim felt the calling to go into hermitage and pray for the world,” Leonard wrote. “It was then I sold him the Lake Hattie Property. He brought his foster children along as a family and his plan as told to me was as his kids transitioned to adulthood he would transition into hermitage and turn the property into a retreat for priests and others in need of solitude and peace. I don’t believe it was possible for him to turn down someone in need.
“Jim was a holy man,” Leonard maintained. “He invested his life to help those in need that society had given up on. In the end he paid the ultimate price for his kindness.”
Schwartzbauer’s 2001 criminal attorney, Marc Kurzman, said he learned of his former client’s death through an Enterprise call to his office.
He said for now he’s not comfortable discussing either case.
“I don’t want to do anything that would have a potential negative impact on the murder investigation or prosecution,” Kurzman said. “I don’t want to do anything to compromise holding somebody responsible for what happened.”
Bachman has alleged, according to the criminal complaint filed, that his brother was one of the earlier victims.