A jury found Jamaal Freeman guilty of second-degree murder May 21 in the Sept. 12, 2007, beating death of Kingfield resident and father of four Mark Loesch.
Freeman was also found guilty of first-degree aggravated robbery and attempted first-degree aggravated robbery. The jury found him not guilty of first-degree murder, which requires intent to kill.
The decision came around 1 p.m., three hours after the jury handed a note to Hennepin County District Court Judge Mark Wernick saying they were deadlocked 4-8. Deliberations started at noon May 20.
"It isn’t going to bring Mark back," said lifelong friend of Loesch Mark Johnston, who attended each day of the week-and-a-half-long trial. "But it’s going to bring some closure… I think we can get a little peace now."
The last year-and-a-half has been difficult for family and friends of Loesch, 41, whose death after leaving for a late-night bike ride initially appeared to be a random crime, causing an outpouring of community concern and questions over why he ended up in a front yard on the 3700 block of Elliot Avenue.
No physical clues or forensic evidence were found and police were stumped for months after the murder, until anonymous tipsters and a police informant led to the arrest of Jamaal Freeman and Donald Jackson, both in their early 20s. The defendants denied killing Loesch, though Jackson pleaded guilty a year ago to aggravated robbery for his role.
The story Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Therese Galatowitsch unfolded in court during Freeman’s trial was that Loesch – who had completed rehabilitation for substance abuse eight years ago – may have approached Jackson looking to buy crack at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. Jackson said he was selling marijuana there, but no other drugs, so he sent Loesch on his way.
But when his friend Freeman came to the corner later to buy a burger at Cup Foods, Jackson told him about the cyclist. Freeman, who had made plans to go out with Jackson later that night, then hatched a robbery plan and got Jackson’s help to carry it out.
Loesch was led into the nearby neighborhood, to a known address where a bat was available, according to the prosecution. There, Jackson watched from behind a bush as Freeman beat Loesch with the bat and robbed him.
The medical examiner found that Loesch died from blunt-force injuries to the head, where he was hit four times. The examiner found no illegal substances in his system.
Defense attorney Emmett Donnelly, working with lawyer Shawn Kennon, argued that the prosecution’s witnesses, several of which had criminal histories, were not credible. He tried to make the case that Jackson was the sole killer, that he was affiliated with the Bloods gang and that he and others were using Freeman as a scapegoat for the murder.
Freeman’s family members were stone-faced and silent, as they had been instructed to be, while the verdict was read. They hurried out of the courtroom afterward.
The Loesch family was also instructed not to show their emotions while the jury was present and they stuck by the rules until jurors were dismissed. Then Loesch’s widow, Samantha Loesch, tearfully embraced friends and family.
Family members declined to comment immediately after the trial, other than saying the court did its job and they were glad it’s over.
Judge Wernick will sentence Freeman on June 22 at 8:30 a.m. State statute calls for 12-15 years in prison, but the state is asking for a longer sentence.