NEW ULM — Scott Engelbrecht confessed to killing his wife and stepdaughter, a man who shared a jail cell with him told a jury Tuesday.
The prosecution called nine witnesses during the second day of the murder trial against Engelbrecht, 60, of St. James, on Tuesday at the Brown County Courthouse.
The final witness of the day, David Uhde, claimed Engelbrecht described to him how he shot Joyce Engelbrecht, 67, and Rachel Linder, 43, on June 16, 2018.
Uhde said he shared a jail cell with Scott after Scott was jailed on murder charges.
When he first asked Scott whether he killed Joyce and Linder, Uhde testified that Scott responded “Heck yeah.”
Later Uhde said Scott described getting into an argument with Joyce that “got heated.” Scott allegedly told his cellmate he had several guns and chose a .22-caliber rifle with which to shoot Joyce. Scott allegedly said Linder witnessed the shooting and he shot her as she was running away.
Uhde said he brainstormed potential defenses with Scott. Initially Scott reportedly planned to claim he had taken sleeping medication and could not recall the night of the shootings.
“The story changed after I told him that wasn’t going to work because he didn’t have a blood test or urine test (after his arrest),” Uhde said.
Later Scott reportedly said he might claim that Linder shot Joyce and he then shot Linder in self defense. Scott also talked about blaming his stepgrandson for both shootings, Uhde claimed.
Other witnesses who took the stand Tuesday included investigators, a medical examiner, neighbors and friends of the Engelbrecht family.
James Matthews, who had a relationship with Linder, said she texted him that evening that Scott had forgotten his wedding anniversary with Joyce.
Matthews’ daughter, Ashley Schwab, said she witnessed Joyce and Scott arguing with increasing frequency, often because Joyce was “so kind and giving money to everybody.”
Schwab said Linder had “hatred” for Scott and tried to avoid him.
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension crime scene leader Ross Thomas showed evidence collected at the shooting scenes.
Inside the Engelbrecht home, Thomas said he found a pool of blood on the living room floor where Joyce reportedly had been shot. She was taken to a hospital where she died.
In a bedroom, Thomas found bullets on a dresser and two guns on the bed. One shotgun was in a case and one was partially removed from the case, he said. An empty cloth case for a long gun also was on the bed.
Linder’s body was found in a pool of blood on the front steps two houses down, Thomas said. There was a holstered gun, a broken watch, a bullet casing and a bullet fragment next to her on the top step. There was a bullet hole in the siding of the house near the steps and another shell casing a few feet away in the driveway.
A rifle was found sitting against a tree and unspent bullets were found in the Engelbrechts’ driveway, consistent with St. James Police officer Jonathan LeClaire’s Monday testimony that Scott set the gun against a tree when he arrived and laid bullets on the ground.
Neighbor Earl Augst testified he was outside on June 16. He did not see anything, but a few minutes before police arrived he said he heard high-pitched screaming, likely from a female. He then heard what he thought was a screen door slamming.
Robert Moll testified his family was not home when Linder died on his front step. A few days later he discovered what appeared to be a bullet hole in a closet adjacent to the front steps. Moll called police and St. James Police officer Robb German testified he found a bullet in the closet.
Assistant Ramsey County Medical Examiner Kelly Mills described the injuries to Linder’s body that led her to conclude Linder’s cause of death was homicide.
Linder had bullet entrance and exit wounds in her left forearm. The same bullet entered Linder’s forehead but did not penetrate her skull, Mills said.
Another bullet was fired into Linder’s right temple and exited out the back of her skull. There was soot around the entry wound, which Mills said indicated the bullet had been fired from a distance of 6 inches away or less.
There also was a graze mark from a bullet on Linder’s lower back. All of the bullet wounds could have been caused by .22-caliber bullets, Mills said.
There was no stippling on either of Linder’s hands to indicate a gun had been fired in or near a hand, Mills said. In an opening statement Monday, defense attorney Ryan Drea suggested Linder had shot her mother.
Bureau of Criminal Apprehension homicide investigator Micheal Anderson said Scott claimed during multiple interviews he could not recall the night of the shootings.
At one point during an interview, Anderson said he asked “Do you regret it?” Scott reportedly responded: “Of course. I hurt the most important thing in my life.”
The trial is being held in Brown County and Scott Englebrecht’s fate will be decided by jurors from Brown County. Judge Stephen Ferrazzano agreed a change of venue was needed to find jurors who had not been biased by media coverage in Watonwan County.
The prosecution is expected to finish presenting its case Wednesday and the defense will begin Wednesday afternoon.