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One dead, one seriously injured in Grand Forks domestic incident

Grand Forks police officers investigate the scene Tuesday at the corner of 12th Avenue South

Relatives called the Grand Forks police Tuesday morning concerned about a woman, who had not showed for work, and her husband, who had missed a court date.

Officers went to the couple's home on the 1500 block of 12th Avenue South to find the man dead with a head injury and the woman unconscious with a severe head wound, Sgt. Kevin Kallinen said.

The woman was taken by ambulance to Altru Hospital, where she remained Tuesday night. Her condition was not released at the request of her family, nursing supervisor Cindy Czapiewski said. Police did not identify the couple, pending notification of their families.

Because of the couple's history of domestic violence, an attempted murder-suicide is a scenario investigators are considering, Kallinen said.

"We keep our minds open, but at this point, we just follow it wherever it leads us," he said. "There's no threat to the general public."

Investigators are not currently considering suspects aside from the couple and are still looking into who caused the injuries, Kallinen said.

He said police recovered a gun from the single-story home but declined to give more details about the gun or to say what sort of weapon was used in the incident. No neighbors reported hearing gunshots, he said.

Welfare check

After receiving the relatives' call at 10:02 a.m., officers went to the home, which sits a couple of blocks west of South Washington Street, to do a "welfare check," a service police routinely perform.

At the door of the home, officers got no response, but noticed that inside a television was on and water was running in a sink.

Officers -- who need permission, a search warrant or exigent circumstances to enter a residence -- had the latter in this case, Kallinen said.

"At some point, they determined, 'Hey, we better go in and check on the welfare of these people,'" Kallinen said. "And it turned out they were right."

The officers discovered the couple in the bedroom with injuries only to their heads. The woman's injuries were "very serious," Kallinen said.

Police are not certain when the couple received their wounds, but they're assuming that they were inflicted about the same time.

"We're not sure exactly when he would have died. It could have occurred at any time in the day before," Kallinen said.

He said the results of the husband's autopsy may be released today.

Investigators cordoned off the front yard, side yard and driveway of the home with yellow tape. The crime scene included a Chevy pickup parked on the street in front of the home and two sport-utility vehicles in the driveway of a two-car garage off the back of the building. The pickup was the husband's vehicle, one SUV belongs to the wife and another SUV belongs to their neighbor who shares the garage.

Kallinen said investigators received a warrant to search the home and the couple's vehicles for evidence. Police do not have any eyewitnesses to the incident, but officers have spoken with relatives familiar with the couple's violent past.

Kallinen, who's in the department's Uniform Patrol Bureau, referred other questions about the investigation to detectives in the Criminal Investigation Bureau, who declined to comment Tuesday.

About 5 p.m., several detectives were seen leaving the home; one was carrying a black trash bag that was half-full. The investigators took down the crime-scene tape shortly before they left, leaving little trace of what had happened.

'Close to home'

The presence of officers, news crews and curious people disrupted the quiet of a rainy midmorning in a neighborhood with modest homes and well-kept yards.

Shannon Casey, 38, who lives a few houses down from the couple, said she got out of bed to see police cruisers converged on her neighbors' home.

"Not something you wake up to everyday, not in this neighborhood, anyway."

Casey, who didn't know the couple, said she hadn't heard or seen anything unusual in the time leading up to the officers' gruesome discovery. The same went for several other neighbors the Herald spoke with, even the man who lives in the unit attached to the couple's home.

The exception was Ida Cerna, who lives on the same block as the couple. Cerna said she heard arguing during the night but, having to get up early for work, didn't bother to see where it was coming from.

Cerna said she had never spoken with the wife, but had briefly met the husband.

"He was always drunk, so I never wanted to go over there," she said. "I just mind my own business."

Pat Kraus, a 22-year-old UND student, lives across the street from the couple. He said he didn't know the husband but that he "seemed like a pretty friendly guy."

Joanne Meisner and her husband own the side-by-side duplex where the couple lived. She said two officers came to her house Tuesday, asking questions about her tenants.

"It was a shock," she said. "These people had only lived in that apartment for about two months."

Meisner, who does not live in the neighborhood, said she had limited interaction with the husband, who worked as a truck driver.

"He was very pleasant whenever I talked to him," she said.

Meisner said she had no problems with the couple as renters, but had heard from another tenant and a relative of the couple that police had been to the home two times because the husband had abused the wife.

"He told me that she was in the hospital because he had gotten a little rough with her," Meisner said their relative told her.

Larry Iverson, 36, said he had heard about the couple's domestic-violence issues through the neighborhood grapevine. Tuesday's news left him disturbed.

"Pretty ugly," Iverson said. "Never like to see that close to home like that."

Cindy Strom, a 32-year-old mother of two, said her neighborhood is typically serene.

"It is a very quiet neighborhood," she said. "We can hear the dogs barking -- that's how quiet it is."

Despite the tragic events, Strom said she feels safe on her block where her biggest worry is a burglary.

"It's very odd for a murder to happen in Grand Forks," she said.

Relatives of the couple declined to speak with the Herald.

Domestic violence

Police were called to the couple's Grand Forks home on the nights of Aug. 9 and Aug. 22 to deal with domestic-violence issues, according to department records.

The offense listed on the Aug. 9 report was simply "Domestic Disturbance" and both husband and wife were listed as the victims.

Aug. 22, the offenses recorded were "Domestic Violence-Aggravated Assault" and "Interfering with an Emergency Phone Call" with only the wife, who worked for a local maid service, named as the victim. Police took digital photos of her during that call. According to the dispatch log, the wife had a possible broken thumb.

Both reports listed alcohol as a factor.

The husband was scheduled to make a first appearance at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Grand Forks County Courthouse on a charge of actual physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated. A warrant was issued for his arrest because he did not appear.

In June, the husband was charged with simple assault for injuring his wife, "including but not limited to red marks and scratches on her neck," a criminal complaint reads. The charge stemmed from a June 27 incident in Larimore, N.D., where the couple lived.

According to Larimore Officer Matthew Sampson's report, the wife, who wanted to press charges, told officers her husband grabbed her by the throat, and the husband told them she kicked him in the groin and scratched him. Officers determined that the husband, who had been drinking alcohol, was the "prominent aggressor," Sampson's report states.

Larimore police had been previously dispatched to the couple's home "numerous times" for domestic disturbances, and no charges were filed against either party, according to the report.

The wife "has told me in the past that" the husband "has been physical with her, but the police were never called for it," the report says.

Sampson also mentions that he had referred the wife to the Community Violence Intervention Center in Grand Forks many times and advised her to get a restraining order against her husband.

"But, from my observation, I noticed" the husband's "pick-up in the driveway and the two appeared to be together again," the report states.

June 27, Sampson again told the wife to call CVIC and obtain a restraining order.

She "gave me the impression that she was going to take care of things," his report reads.

The husband was sentenced to three days in jail in July and ordered to complete CVIC's 26-week treatment program for domestic-violence offenders. The husband's record also shows he was charged with simple assault in 1996, but since court records no longer exist, the victim and the disposition in the case are not known.