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Double murder trial: No known motive in Moorhead deaths

Tracy Zornes

MOORHEAD - In the first week of the Tracy Zornes double-murder trial, the most telling moment may have come Friday after jurors had been excused for the weekend and lawyers were arguing about potential defense witnesses.

"No motive is known in this case," said Heidi Davies, an assistant Clay County attorney. "It could have been burglary, could have been sexual assault, could have been car theft - it could have been anything. We don't know."

Jurors heard one of those theories Friday when a Moorhead police detective testified about something Zornes allegedly said - "This wasn't anything sexual" - roughly two weeks after prosecutors say he killed Megan Londo and John Cadotte and set ablaze the lower-level apartment where their bodies were discovered on Feb. 19, 2010.

Two upstairs neighbors in the three-unit apartment building in Moorhead have testified they heard apparent sex noises coming from the downstairs that night.

Detective Ryan Nelson said Friday he was considering sexual assault as a possible motive when he and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Special Agent Eric Jaeche collected Zornes' clothing and examined his body at the Mahnomen County law enforcement center on March 4, 2010.

Nelson testified he heard Zornes say, "This wasn't anything sexual," or something similar, as Jaeche was taking Zornes' clothing. Nelson said he's aware that Jaeche didn't hear the comment, despite the room's small size.

Jaeche testified Thursday that when Nelson allegedly heard the statement, Jaeche was putting evidence from Zornes in paper bags and sealing them up.

Prior to the trial, Zornes' attorneys argued that the comment should be tossed out because it was the product of an illegal search. Judge Galen Vaa ruled the warrantless DNA search of Zornes couldn't be used at trial, but he allowed the comment, noting it was made spontaneously and voluntarily and happened before the improper search.

Defense attorney Mara Rausch asked Nelson on Friday why he didn't use the audio recording device he had at the time. Nelson said he wasn't expecting to interrogate or interview the suspect at that point.

"It was just unexpected," he said of the comment.

On Monday, the state will call its last witness, the medical examiner, and the defense will begin its case. Judge Galen Vaa said jurors could begin deliberations Tuesday or Wednesday.

Vaa said he will allow a defense witness to testify that Londo called him the evening before the fire saying she knew a woman with money who wanted to buy pills, but the judge has not decided whether friends of Cadotte can testify to his drug and alcohol use.

Prosecutors argue those witnesses would only be­smirch the victims' character, while the defense says the testimony is important because it suggests Cadotte and Londo intended to be at the apartment to party.