It’s been two-and-a-half years since Kingfield husband and father of four Mark Loesch was found beaten to death in a south Minneapolis lawn the morning after leaving for a late-night bike ride. Nearly a year has passed since the two-week trial of Jamaal Freeman, accused of killing Loesch, was thrown out and rescheduled because of evidence the prosecution did not disclose to defense attorneys.
As the new trial began March 22 in Hennepin County District Court, it was clear that time hadn’t made reliving the incident any easier for Loesch’s family and friends. After a full day of court proceedings that included a tearful testimony from widow Samantha Loesch, sister Molly Hanson said the exhausting ordeal seemed to get harder as it dragged on. Mark Johnston, a lifelong friend of the slain cyclist, said the trial’s long-awaited end should at least provide some closure.
Mark Loesch, 41, left home on his freshly built red Schwinn bicycle around 10:30 p.m. Sept. 12, 2007. His body was found the next morning 2 miles away, on the 3700 block of Elliot Avenue. The medical examiner said the death was caused by blunt-force injuries to the head.
The incident caused an outpouring of community concern and questions as investigators turned up nothing for several weeks. More intrigue erupted after arrests were made and police revealed a possible drug-deal-gone-wrong scenario. That theory was initially rejected by family members and debated in the community but later strengthened at the first trial by the prosecution’s account of the murder and Samantha Loesch’s testimony about her husband’s prior struggles with substance abuse.
Before a new judge and jury this week, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Therese Galatowitsch and defense attorney Shawn Kennon, who is working alongside lawyer Emmett Donnelly, again made their opening statements.
Galatowitsch, who delivered a dramatic opening statement during the first trial, toned it down this time but stuck to the same story. She contended that Freeman, working with accomplice Donald Jackson — who already pleaded guilty to an aiding and abetting robbery charge in exchange for a lighter sentence — lured Mark Loesch down the street from 38th Street and Chicago Avenue after the cyclist stopped there to buy drugs. Freeman then hit Mark Loesch in the head with a bat and took $40 from his pocket as Jackson watched from behind a bush. Jackson and Freeman then went to a Downtown strip club.
Galatowitsch said what Freeman did weighed heavily on his mind and he started sharing his involvement in the crime with others in the community.
“He confided in a friend about hitting the white guy on the bike with a baseball bat,” Galatowitsch said.
Kennon said the prosecution’s witnesses lacked credibility, reliability and believability.
She said the strip club outing did happen but that Freeman was not involved in the murder. She argued that Jackson was the sole killer and that Freeman was at his brother’s apartment when the murder took place. She said Jackson confessed his involvement to a high-ranking Bloods gang member and planned to blame it on someone else.
She also alluded to the involvement of Kevin Dickerson, the then-12-year-old boy who found Mark Loesch’s body on his way to school. Dickerson knew both Freeman and Jackson, but Kennon said evidence would show the boy was caught in the basement with Jackson weeks after the murder, piecing together their story.
No physical or forensic evidence was ever found at the scene, so the trial is completely reliant on witness testimony.
Several witnesses including first-responding police officers, Samantha Loesch and Dickerson’s parents testified during the opening day of the trial in front of Judge George McGunnigle. The trial is expected to continue throughout the week.