A man fatally shot his older brother inside a camper and towed it to a wooded trail in northern Minnesota, where the body remained until its discovery more than six months later, according to a criminal complaint.
James R. Hess, 48, of Hill City, was charged Tuesday in Aitkin County District Court with second-degree murder in connection with the death in October of William H. Hess Jr., 52, also of Hill City.
James Hess remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail. Court records do not list an attorney for him. He is due back in court on June 6.
According to the complaint:
On the night of May 12, the Sheriff's Office was tipped off about a body in a homemade camper sitting on a trail about a mile west of 380th Avenue in Hill Lake Township.
A sheriff's sergeant and two deputies went to the trailer. One of the deputies climbed on top and saw a body inside. It was taken to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office, where it was identified. The examination found that William Hess Jr. had been shot in the head.
The sheriff's sergeant knew that William Hess lived in the camper parked outside his brother's home in the 200 block of N. Pine Street. He also had heard rumors that James Hess "had grown irritated" with his older brother.
The sheriff's sergeant also knew that William Hess had not been seen in the community for quite awhile, that James Hess might have had something to do with the disappearance and there was no missing person's report filed by the family.
A confidential source shared with investigators text messages he had exchanged with James Hess in October that revealed the younger brother's anger about William Hess breaking into his home, stealing items and causing damage.
"I'm just waiting to catch him breaking in," one of several angry texts read. "I'm going to end this once and for all, one way or another."
On Monday, James Hess told law enforcement that he came home and found his brother on the roof of the house one day in October and yelling. James Hess said he followed his brother into the camper and shot him.
He hooked up the camper to his SUV, pulled it more than 4 miles to the trail and left his brother's body inside.
Also filed Tuesday against James Hess and 41-year-old Lisa M. Soular, who lives with him, were numerous felony drug counts in connection with a large-scale operation. A search of their home turned up amphetamine, methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, more than $15,000 in a safe and about $1,000 in James Hess' vehicle.