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Bemidji man pleads guilty to murder, kidnapping, sex assault

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Jacob Kinn2 / 2

BEMIDJI, Minn.—A Bemidji man who murdered his sex partner before kidnapping and raping a child in her care pleaded guilty to three felonies Tuesday, June 6.

While entering his pleas to one count of second-degree unintentional murder, one count of kidnapping and one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person younger than 13, Jacob William Kinn, 33, testified that he strangled Melissa Sue Norby with a belt during sex.

Kinn testified that he and Norby had a sexual relationship for about a year before the crime occurred on June 21.

According to Kinn, he and Norby planned to kidnap the 5-year-old child together. Norby—a friend of the girl's mother—picked up the 5-year-old and brought the child to her trailer home at Hillcrest Manor in Bemidji.

Kinn then went to the trailer home and had sex with Norby, he said. While the two were having sex, Kinn put a belt around Norby's neck and tightened it, killing her. Kinn said he saw "bloody spittle" coming out of Norby's mouth and pulled her pants up before covering her body with a mattress.

While Norby and Kinn were having sex in the living room of the trailer home, the child was in the bedroom 5 feet away, Kinn said. Once Norby was dead and her body was covered, Kinn took the child from the bedroom and carried her out of the home, past Norby's body.

Kinn brought the child to his home in Bemidji, restrained her, then returned to Norby's home with a gas can. He poured the gas around her home and on her body and set the trailer on fire, Kinn said.

When he returned to his home and the child, Kinn sexually assaulted her. He testified that after the assault he went to work, leaving the 5-year-old tied up in his home. When he came home from work around 9 p.m. June 22, Kinn took the child to a pop-up camper near Bigfork, Minn., on land that belonged to his brother, where he left her.

In the meantime, law enforcement responded to the mobile home fire in the early morning hours of June 22. They discovered Norby's body, and were told that the 5-year-old was missing after her mother arrived at the scene.

During the search for the child, police identified Kinn as a person of interest after discovering he and Norby were in a relationship, and that he had been convicted of possessing child pornography in 2013. Police interviewed Kinn, then found the child in the pop-up camper.

While pleading guilty to the three felonies, Kinn also admitted to four aggravating factors related to Norby's murder. Kinn testified that he treated Norby with particular cruelty by concealing her body, and mutilated her body by burning it. Prosecutors said Norby was burned on 75 percent of her body.

Kinn also admitted that the crime was committed in the presence of a child, and that by burning Norby's body he caused additional harm to people who knew her.

Because of the aggravating factors, prosecutors plan to ask Judge Shari Schluchter to sentence Kinn to 33 years in prison for the murder, a much more severe sentence than guidelines call for. They will also ask for a 14-year and three-month sentence for the criminal sexual conduct charge and a four-year and and nine-month sentence for the kidnapping charge. Kinn's defense attorneys have agreed to the sentencing recommendations, meaning Kinn will likely be sentenced to 52 years in prison.

He is scheduled to appear in court for sentencing June 26.

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or gpastoor@bemidjipioneer.com

(218) 333-9796
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