WORTHINGTON — After nearly 12 hours of deliberation, a jury has found Christopher Kruse not guilty on charges of both first- and second-degree murder of Janette Pigman-Kruse, whose 2015 death shook the community of Brewster and the area.
Kruse's family and friends packed the courtroom Thursday night to hear the verdict. Tension was already high after a day of hanging out at the law enforcement center waiting on the jury to come to a decision. The moment the clerk read the verdict, tears began to flow throughout the courtroom.
The clerk also took jury roll call, asking each juror individually if "not guilty" was their true and accurate verdict. They all said it was.
Many spectators hugged Kruse and his defense attorneys on their way out of the courtroom.
The jury’s verdict came after extensive discussion of eight days’ worth of testimony from 41 witnesses, 37 called by the prosecution and four by the defense. Their ultimate decision means that Kruse is released from the charges of murder and is protected by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution from being re-tried on the same charges, even if further investigation were to unearth additional evidence. The state may close the investigation of Pigman-Kruse’s murder or continue to vet suspects.
Nobles County Attorney Joseph Sanow issued a statement Friday afternoon about the case.
"We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict of not guilty," Sanow wrote. "We continue to believe that on Aug. 19, 2015, Christopher Kruse intentionally shot and killed Janette Pigman-Kruse in the bedroom of their Brewster home.
"However, we are sworn to support the federal and state constitutions, both of which give individuals accused of a crime the right to have their guilt or innocence determined by a jury. We support that right, regardless of the outcome. In this case, the jury concluded we failed to prove Christopher Kruse’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. We must accept the jury’s verdict, and we do.
"The Nobles County Attorney’s Office wishes to thank all law enforcement and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension professionals who participated in this case, and Assistant County Attorneys Adam E. Johnson and Braden M. Hoefert, and attorney William F. Klumpp, for their unceasing effort to obtain justice for Janette Pigman-Kruse."
Closing statements Wednesday allowed attorneys on both sides of the case to review the evidence that was presented and make a last appeal to the jury.
The prosecution closed first and then the defense, after which the prosecution was allowed a rebuttal.