Karjala attorneys request dismissal

After talking through a new charge and a number of motions on the case July 15, the contested omnibus hearing for Joshua Karjala was postponed until Sept. 9.

Karjala, 35, was charged with second-degree felony murder in November of last year, following the death of Michelle Mae.

Karjala now has two felony murder charges – one seeking intentional murder and the other unintentional.

Karjala has been in the Aitkin County Jail since his arrest in November, unable to meet the conditions or raise the money for his bond, which ranges from $500,000 with conditions and up to $5 million without.

The family of 35-year-old Mae, Outing, reported her missing Oct. 3. On Oct. 4, upon location of her 2004 Jeep Liberty, investigation and searches began for Mae. Mae’s vehicle was transported to the BCA for processing.

Over the course of the following 10 days, numerous agencies participated in daily ground searches and K-9 searches in a five mile radius of the location where the vehicle was recovered.

Drone searches and water searches were conducted. Search warrants were issued for cell account data. In addition, search warrants were executed at a rural private property near Swatara.

On Oct. 15, while executing a search warrant at the residence of Karjala, the body of Michelle Mary Mae was located. Mae’s body was transported to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner for autopsy. On Oct. 16, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner determined Mae’s manner of death to be homicide.

On Nov. 7 in District Court of the 9th Judicial District, Aitkin County, Karjala was arraigned on one count of felony second degree murder in the strangulation death of Michelle Mary Mae.

The July 15 court hearing was held via ITV with the defendent’s defense and members of the prosecution all attending virtually as well as Karjala.

There was a meeting afterward for statements from the victim’s family.

A new public defender, Steven Bergeson, has joined Charles Frey and Jordan Olsen on Karjala’s defense team, and was identified at the hearing as lead counsel on the case.

With the new charge of intentional homicide filed July 14, Karjala and his attorneys asked for time to review the files and were placed in a private virtual meeting for about 20 minutes.

When they came out, Judge David Hermerding, Karjala’s attorneys and prosecutor Daniel Vlieger reviewed the motions currently before the court – which included a request for change of venue, a motion by the state to consider aggravating factors in the crime, a request to introduce new evidence, and new requests by the defense to suppress both evidence and statements made by Karjala to law enforcement or their subsidiaries.

Karjala’s attorneys asked for more time to make their arguments on the motions. The COVID-19 pandemic has, they said, slowed down the response from an outside consulting firm and a death in the family resulted in one of the public defender’s limited availability.

Bergeson, new to the case, also wanted additional time to review the files, and added that, “We just attempted to explain felony murder to Mr. Karjala.”

When discussing a future date, the attorneys agreed that September would work best for all involved.

The new hearing scheduled for Sept. 9 has two times – 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. – to account for two different parts of the hearing.

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