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Osakis murder trial takes twist

Jeffrey Brooks

A case against the suspect in an Osakis murder has taken a twist.

Jeffrey Allan Brooks, 52, of Alexandria, was scheduled to be sentenced in Todd County District Court on Monday, February 13. Last November, he had entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder charges in the death of 51-year-old Diane Fortenberry, who was killed on May 20, 2011.

Now Brooks is attempting to change his plea and his sentencing hearing is on hold.

In a letter submitted to the court and his own court-appointed attorneys on Tuesday, February 7, Brooks accuses his attorneys of misconduct, claiming they lied to him and intentionally delayed his case. He requested his attorneys to be removed.

Brooks also claims, in his letter, according to arguments heard in court, that he felt pressured to enter a plea and didn't have enough time to consider his options.

The attorneys for Brooks told Judge Jay Carlson on Tuesday that commenting on Brooks' claims would create a conflict of interest since they were being accused of misconduct.

Meanwhile, prosecutors told the judge that Brooks just wants to change his mind and that he has had enough time to consider his plea options.

"Based on the record we have, court should continue," said David Voigt for the prosecution.

Judge Carlson, who admitted that he hadn't had a chance to read Brooks' letter, asked the defense to submit their own formal motion to withdraw from the case by February 9.

Judge Carlson said he would then look into the merits of Brooks' letter and the motion and decide if new counsel would be appointed or if Brooks would represent himself.

The judge said it might be too tight of a timetable to reschedule Brooks' plea motion to Monday, February 13, the day that Brooks was originally scheduled to be sentenced.


On May 20, 2011, Fortenberry stopped home after lunch to let her dog outside and reportedly interrupted Brooks burglarizing her home.

She was assaulted and died from blunt force trauma injuries. One of her sons returned home that afternoon and found his mother unresponsive.

On May 27, Brooks was arrested in Alexandria.

Brooks has a criminal record that dates back nearly 20 years and includes burglaries in St. Paul and Cold Spring, drug possession in St. Paul and theft in Fergus Falls.

Diane Fortenberry is survived by her husband, Mike, and two sons, Colter and Grayson, of Osakis.

Fortenberry grew up in Osakis and graduated from Alexandria Technical College with a sales and marketing degree.

The Fortenberrys moved back to Osakis in 2007 after surviving Hurricane Katrina and a house fire. Diane worked as a dispatcher for Hensley Inc. of Osakis.