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Conviction upheld in 1997 killing of Iowa teen

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday confirmed the conviction and 44-year-sentence of a man found guilty for ordering the brutal 1997 kidnapping and murder of an Iowa teen who owed money for drugs.

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The court affirmed the Minnesota conviction of Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez does not violate his right to be free from double jeopardy, even though he had been convicted in Iowa. His Iowa conviction was reversed and dismissed because he did not get a speedy trial.

Gregory "Sky" Erickson, 15, was kidnapped and killed in June 1997 over a drug debt. He was taken from Spencer, Iowa, and beaten by a group of men who took turns punching and kicking him while he had his hands tied behind his back and a pillow case over his head.

One of the men said Castillo-Alvarez ordered him to kill the teen and leave him in Minnesota. The men put Erickson in the trunk of a car and took him to an abandoned farmhouse in Jackson County, where he was shot twice with a gun provided by Castillo-Alvarez, according to court documents. The next day, two men went back to the farmhouse to burn it, and Erickson's partly burned body was found a week later.

Castillo-Alvarez fled to Mexico. He was eventually extradited and convicted in Iowa in 2007. But the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed his conviction in 2009, saying prosecutors violated his speedy trial rights.

Minnesota prosecutors charged him in 2010 with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting kidnapping. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence in September 2012, setting the stage for Wednesday's Minnesota Supreme Court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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