The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 28, 2014

Murder suspect charged with previous assault

ST. PETER — A Bemidji man who is facing a second-degree murder charge for allegedly beating a man to death in the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter is now accused of assaulting another inmate a week before the alleged murder occurred.

After Darnell Dee Whitefeather, 32, was accused of punching an inmate in the face Jan. 15, he remained in the Security Hospital. On Jan. 22 he was arrested and taken to the Nicollet County Jail after he allegedly beat 41-year-old Michael Francis Douglas to death. Douglas was committed to the hospital as mentally ill and dangerous after serving 21 years in prison for murdering a man in Mankato in 1991.

Details of the previous assault came to light in a criminal complaint filed this week in Nicollet County District Court. It accuses Whitefeather of breaking another inmate’s nose during a flurry of punches in the victim’s room. Douglas had been found beaten to death in his cell in a more secure area of the hospital, called the 800 unit, where Whitefeather was sent after the earlier assault.

The assault victim, Michael Staples, told St. Peter police investigators he had arrived at the hospital the day he was beaten. He said Whitefeather accused him of being a child molester before punching him in the face several times. Staples also reported the assault continued after he curled up on the floor in an attempt to protect himself.

A counselor at the hospital told investigators she had seen Whitefeather talking to another inmate, Martin Doerr, either before or after the assault. Whitefeather was making punching motions and moving his head like he was being punched before he and Doerr walked over to Staples’ room and looked through a window in the door, the counselor reported.

Doerr later told investigators Whitefeather knew Staples was a “cho-mo,” a term inmates use for someone they think is a child molester. He said he was in his room when the assault occurred, but Whitefeather told him he “could have gotten in on it with him and had some fun,” the complaint said.

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