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August 4, 2011

First-degree murder charges filed for accused killer of Josselyn Bishop

MANKATO — A grand jury charged Damone Christopher Williams-Tillman with five counts of first-degree murder Thursday for the killing of Josselyn Bishop, a 19-year-old Minnesota State University student from Henderson.

Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Pat McDermott presented his case to the grand jury during private proceedings starting Wednesday morning. In Minnesota, only a grand jury can hand down a first-degree murder charge.

Bishop’s body was found by police July 8 on a median on North Victory Drive. Police say Williams-Tillman, an ex-boyfriend, stabbed her once while they were discussing their prior relationship. Police said she fled and he chased her and stabbed her to death.

The grand jury, whose members’ names are secret, had to decide if there was enough evidence to charge Williams-Tillman with the crime. He had previously been charged with second-degree murder.

McDermott said the grand jury is tasked with deciding whether the prosecution has proved “probable cause,” a legal threshold that is not as definitive as the more well known “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for criminal cases.

McDermott summarized probable cause: “I believe a crime was probably committed and I believe so-and-so probably committed the crime.”

He said the jury started deliberating Thursday morning and returned their charges later in the morning.

Of the five first-degree murder charges, one was for premeditation and the other four were connected with other crimes committed during the murder, namely domestic abuse, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. Two of the charges were for kidnapping.

There were also eight lesser charges filed by the grand jury.

The Free Press was unable to contact a lawyer for Williams-Tillman.

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