Tears mark opening day of Loesch murder trial

The pain of her husband’s murder in September 2007 came flooding back to Samantha Loesch May 11 as she wept through her testimony in the trial of a man accused of beating the Kingfield father of four to death with a baseball bat.

She recounted in detail the evening of Sept. 12, how she and Mark Loesch, a 41-year-old software engineer, ate dinner with their children, drank wine and watched TV. Then, after the opening monologue of “Late Night with David Letterman,” Samantha Loesch said her husband decided to take his red Schwinn, which he had just fitted with new wheels, out for a spin.

He never came home.

A 12-year-old boy en route to school found him the next morning lying on his side in a front lawn one-and-a-half miles away. The death caused a community outcry and controversy surrounding the possibility of a drug deal gone wrong strained family and friends and shook up the Police Department — causing a sergeant to be transferred for disputing the claim after his boss made it public.  

Jamaal Freeman, 23, is on trial in Hennepin County District Court for the killing. Another man, Donald Jackson, who was 23 when Loesch was killed, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery of Mark Loesch a year ago and will testify against Freeman. The defense is pointing fingers back at Jackson.

Defense attorney Shawn Kennon, who is working with Emmett Donnelly, said in her opening statement that two “egregious wrongs” had been committed — the murder of Mark Loesch and the accusation that Freeman did it.

“There is no physical evidence linking Jamaal Freeman to Mark Loesch’s death, Kennon said.

She painted Freeman as a father of a young boy, a man who was starting anew by moving to Maryland when he was arrested, a guy who enjoyed mixing music and playing basketball. But, she said, Freeman got caught up with the wrong people.

“Unfortunately, he met Donald Jackson, the one who robbed and killed Mark Loesch,” Kennon said.  

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Therese Galatowitsch acknowledged in her opening statement that the suspects left behind no clues or forensic evidence and there were no eyewitnesses to the crime. No arrests were made for weeks after Mark Loesch’s death.

But, Galatowitsch said, Freeman and Jackson’s guilt got to them and they eventually started to talk about what they’d done. Tipsters, including a friend of Freeman’s who worked as a police informant, started calling and the link was made, Galatowitsch said.

“The memory of what Jackson and Freeman did haunted them,” she said.

Jackson told police Mark Loesch approached him looking for drugs, Galatowitsch said.

Whether that was the case is a point of controversy that has never been resolved, but Samantha Loesch at trial described with difficulty her husband’s struggle with drug abuse, for which he successfully completed rehabilitation in 2001.

He started with painkillers and alcohol and eventually was using crack-cocaine, Samantha Loesch said. He relapsed a few times afterward, but she said he had been “really good” after their youngest daughter was born. After his death, though, she found half-empty bottles of liquor hidden around the house.

Mark Loesch left his home Sept. 12 with $40 in his pocket and nothing else.

Galatowitsch said after the inquiry Jackson reported, he and Freeman lured him into the neighborhood, away from surveillance cameras at a nearby SuperAmerica. There, Mark Loesch was beaten and robbed of the cash. He was found lying next to his bike, which was on its side with the kickstand down. His right front pocket was inside out.  

Several photos of the crime scene were shown during police testimony at the trial, drawing tears from friends and family in the audience.

Samantha Loesch said in her testimony that it was not unusual for her husband, an avid cycle enthusiast, to go on a late-night bike ride. It also wasn’t unusual for him to sleep on the couch when their youngest daughter, who is four, crawled into her parents’ bed, as she did Sept. 12, Samantha Loesch said. So it wasn’t until sunup that something seemed terribly wrong.

“I was just in a panic because I knew something terrible had happened,” Samantha Loesch said. “I figured he was in an accident.”

The trial continues today.