Dakota County Attorney Kathy Keena announced that Ryann Elizabeth Smith, age 23 of White Bear Lake, pled guilty today to one added count of Assault in the First Degree (Aiding and Abetting) in connection with the death of 55-year-old Chris Lafontaine at his home in Greenvale Township in Dakota County between July 1 and July 2, 2021. Smith was originally charged with Murder in the Second Degree (Unintentional) (Aiding and Abetting). Judge Christopher Lehmann ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set the sentencing date for June 2, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. in Hastings. Smith is being held in the Dakota County jail without bail.
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. Witnesses reported seeing two males run and get into a white Durango that was later confirmed to belong to the victim.
Deputies found the victim in a bathroom, deceased. The victim's hands and feet were bound together with several ligatures; and there was a rag and a glove over the victim's mouth held in place with a ligature tied around his head. An autopsy was performed, and the victim's death was determined to be an asphyxia 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 Alan Taylor, fled on foot and was later apprehended in Montana along with Ryann Elizabeth Smith.
Additional facts pertaining to this case can be found in the criminal complaint at Criminal Complaint Search. Previous news releases can be viewed at County Attorney News Releases. If in custody, a mug shot can be viewed at Inmate Search.
Both Timothy Tuit and Stephanie Peabody pled guilty December 1, 2021 to one count of Aiding an Offender (Accomplice After the Fact) and will be sentenced on May 11, 2022 at 9:00 a.m. in Hastings. Nicholas Alan Taylor pled guilty February 17, 2022 to one count of Murder in the Second Degree (Unintentional) (Aiding and Abetting) and will be sentenced June 2, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. in Hastings.
Keena commented: “We are pleased that Ms. Smith has taken responsibility for her role in the senseless death of Mr. Lafontaine. Our deepest sympathy is extended to Mr. Lafontaine's family for their loss."
Keena thanked Amy Schaffer and Connor Cremens, Assistant County Attorneys who are prosecuting these cases. If you have questions, contact Kathy Keena at 651-438-4440.