Dakota County Attorney Kathy Keena announced that four individuals have been charged* in connection with the death of 55-year-old Chris Jon Lafontaine at his home in Greenvale Township in Dakota County on July 2, 2021. Ryann Elizabeth Smith, age 22 of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, was charged with one count of Murder in the Second Degree (Without Intent) (While Committing a Felony). Nicholas Alan Taylor, age 29 of St. Paul, Minnesota was charged with one count each of Murder in the Second Degree (Without Intent) (While Committing a Felony) and Burglary in the First Degree (Occupied Dwelling). Stephanie Marie Peabody, age 25 of Welch, Minnesota, and Timothy William Tuit, age 36 of South St. Paul, Minnesota have both been charged with Aiding an Offender (Accomplice After the Fact) and Burglary in the First Degree (Occupied Dwelling).
Tuit made his first court appearance on these charges yesterday. Bail in the amount of $400,000 without conditions ($200,000 with conditions), was set by Dakota County District Court Judge Karen Asphaug. His next court appearance is scheduled for August 5, 2021, at 1:30 p.m. in Hastings. Peabody, Smith and Taylor were charged by warrant complaint last week and have not appeared on this case.
The following is a summary of the allegations contained in the criminal complaints filed in this case:
On July 2, 2021, at approximately 4:45 p.m., Dakota County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to a burglary in progress at a residence in Greenvale Township. The reporting party informed deputies that two males ran out of the residence when a neighbor knocked on the door to check on the homeowner, 55-year-old Chris Jon Lafontaine. Another neighbor got into his vehicle to look for the two males. He saw two males come out of the ditch and get into a white Durango that was later confirmed to belong to the victim.
When deputies entered the residence to check on the victim they found him in a bathroom, deceased. The victim's hands and feet were bound together with several cables. The cables were wrapped around his hands, feet and mouth. Under one of the ties, was a rag and glove that covered his mouth. An autopsy was conducted and the victim's death was determined to be an asphyxial type death.
Shortly after discovering the victim's body, Northfield police officers located the victim's Durango and after initiating a traffic stop, the Durango fled. Eventually the vehicle stopped and all three occupants fled into a wooded area. Officers ultimately apprehended the driver, Stephanie Peabody and the front seat passenger, Timothy Tuit. The third occupant later identified as Nicholas Taylor, fled on foot and was later apprehended in Montana along with Ryann Smith.
Peabody explained that she was Tuit's girlfriend and he and Taylor were brothers. During the investigation, statements were taken from Peabody and Tuit. In those statements were admissions of Smith and Taylor tying up a man and hitting him in the head with a Maglight flashlight. Video footage from the victim's home shows Taylor, Smith and the victim together in the residence in the early morning hours of July 1st. A phone recovered from the Durango, believed to belong to Tuit, shows conversations about the details of their plan and what occurred at the residence. Additional facts pertaining to this case can be found in the criminal complaints at Criminal Complaint Search. While in custody, a mug shot can be viewed at Inmate Search.
Keena commented: “Our deepest sympathy is extended to Mr. Lafontaine's family and friends for their great loss."
Keena thanked the Dakota County Sheriff's Office for their investigation of this case. Keena also thanked the Northfield Police Department, the Dakota County Sheriff's Office Electronic Crimes Unit and numerous other agencies for their part in the apprehension of all suspects; as well the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office for their assistance in the investigation.
If you have questions, contact Kathy Keena at 651-438-4440.
*Criminal charges are not evidence of guilt. A defendant/suspect is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.