Friday, February 4, 2011

A person of interest in Minot case was on supervised release because he couldn't be deported to Somalia and he couldn't be held indefinitely

If he had been from almost any other country, the former convict from the Twin Cities called a "person of interest" in the fatal shooting of four people in Minot, North Dakota, probably would have been deported before the killings occurred. But the 26-year-old man is a native of Somalia. Because Somalia has no government, U.S. officials cannot deport people there. But officials also could not hold him after his release from federal custody in May 2010, following an assault conviction. Generally, officials are prohibited from detaining criminal aliens longer than six months after their release from custody. So the man, who once lived in the Twin Cities and who recently had been splitting time between Minot and the oil fields of Williston, North Dakota, was on supervised release when the mother of his child and three others were killed. Police found 19-year-old Sabrina Zephier, the mother of the man's 5-month-old daughter, dead. Their baby was found alive in the apartment. Killed an hour later were Zephier's mother, Jolene Zephier, 38; Sabrina Zephier's brother, Dillon Zephier, 13, and Jolene Zephier's boyfriend, Jeremy Longie, 22. Police found their bodies in Jolene Zephier's mobile home. All four were shot, Minot police Capt. Dan Strandberg said. Under usual circumstances involving an immigrant with a violent criminal record, the man - suspect or not - would probably not have been in the United States when the killings happened. He has an extensive criminal record in Minnesota. His most serious offense occurred in January 2006, when he stabbed another male during an altercation in an apartment building entry in Minneapolis. According to the charges, several others were involved in that assault, which left the victim with a collapsed lung, a concussion and stab wounds to his right eye, right shoulder and back. In June 2006, the man pleaded guilty in Hennepin County to second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, a felony. He was sentenced to one year and one day in prison with credit for 143 days served. He finished his state prison term in January 2007. It is the practice of immigration officials to begin deportation proceedings immediately after an alien offender is released from local or state custody. But that gets dicier when dealing with offenders from countries that either refuse to take them back or do not have formal relations with the United States. Somalis can still be under deportation orders, but those orders are not acted upon.

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