By Dan Nienaber
---- — MANKATO — Citing a possible sentence of life in prison without parole if found guilty, a judge increased Levi Minissale's bail to $1.5 million Thursday during Minissale's first court appearance for a first-degree murder charge.
A grand jury indicted Minissale, 24, for that charge, a second-degree murder charge and one count each of first- and second-degree attempted murder Tuesday. Minissale had already been charged with second-degree murder after the June 6 slaying of Yesenia Gonzalez, 20, at her Mankato home. The indictment requires the court process to start over.
Answering mostly yes and no questions, Minissale told District Court Judge Bradley Walker he had discussed the new charges with Ryan Else, one of his two attorneys. Else also waived requirements to have an arraignment hearing within a week and an omnibus hearing within four weeks. Else told Walker there's "massive amounts" of evidence that he and the other attorney, Brock Hunter, will have to go through before making any motions that would be considered at an omnibus hearing.
After hearing and considering evidence during secret proceedings Monday and Tuesday, the grand jury decided there was enough evidence to charge Minissale with premeditated murder. A grand jury indictment is required for first-degree murder charges in Minnesota.
In a criminal complaint that was filed for the initial second-degree murder charge, investigators reported Minissale told them he had thought about hurting Gonzalez and her husband, Galo Buccio Ruiz, as he was driving from Sioux Falls toward his home in Minneapolis. He also told investigators he put a hunting knife in his pocket and brought it into the couple's house with him when he decided to stop and talk to them on his way home, the complaint said.
Ruiz told investigators Minissale was Gonzalez's ex-boyfriend she had met in Minneapolis in February. He said Minissale stayed with them regularly on weekends until Gonzalez broke up with him sometime in May.
Minissale was at Ruiz's house when he returned from work sometime before 10:30 a.m. on June 6, the complaint said. He said they talked for awhile before Gonzalez woke up, saw Minissale and brought Minissale into a bedroom to talk. Ruiz said he went to sleep in another room and woke up as Minissale was attacking him with a knife. Gonzalez's throat had already been cut, Ruiz told investigators.