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Grand jury testimony will be focus of hearing in murder case

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BENSON -- Andrew Gordon Lemcke, 34, of Appleton, will return to district court Friday in Benson on first- and second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of his wife Nichole Riley-Lemcke, 26, on Sept. 12, 2004, in their Appleton home.

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Although the court appearance is scheduled as a hearing on whether probable cause exists for the charges filed against him on Nov. 17, 2008, it's unlikely that the state will present the outline of its allegations against Lemcke.

Instead, the hearing is expected to focus on how much access the defense will be granted to the information presented to the grand jury that issued the indictments against Lemcke. Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense have filed recent motions over access to the information presented to the grand jury. The Friday hearing will likely be devoted to the arguments by both sides on their motions, according to the court file.

District Judge Jon Stafsholt had issued an order Feb. 26 requiring the state to turn over to the defense the transcripts of the recorded witness statements made at the grand jury proceeding. A Swift County grand jury convened in November 2008 returned the indictments on first-degree murder, premeditated and second-degree murder, intentional.

A Swift County grand jury had also been convened in April 2005, but it returned no bill of indictment against Lemcke.

Defense attorneys Andrew Northrup and Neil Tangen with the state public defender's office filed motions asking that complete or "full verbatim" transcripts of the November 2008 grand jury proceeding be provided.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, and the burden is on the defense to show "good cause'' for the disclosure of information, according to a memorandum filed with the judge's original order.

The prosecution has also filed a motion involving access to the transcript from the grand jury proceeding. Prosecutors Al Zdrazil with the Minnesota Attorney General's office and Robin Finke, Swift County attorney, are asking that copies of the witness statements be made available to Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Agent Paul Soppland. The motion seeks to allow the agent to review the testimony of individual witnesses to prepare for trial.

Lemcke had been working as a correction's officer in Florence, Ariz., and turned himself into authorities when informed of the indictments issued last November. He has been free on conditions after posting $10,000 bail following a Dec. 19 court appearance in district court in Benson.

Unlike in most criminal cases, no formal complaint has been filed by the state providing a narrative account of the allegations against him. It is expected that the state will outline its allegations when a full omnibus hearing is held on whether there is probable cause to allow the charges to go forward. It is not known when a full omnibus will be held, and if probable cause is found, when a trial would be held.

Nichole Riley-Lemcke, a mother of three, was shot in her home on the morning of Sept. 12, 2004, and pronounced dead at the Appleton Hospital, where Lemcke had transported her. He has described the shooting as accidental, saying the gun discharged when he attempted to wrestle it away from her.

Riley-Lemcke's parents filed a wrongful death suit alleging that the marriage between their daughter and the defendant had soured and that she was fearful something would happen to her. That suit was put on hold in September.

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