Man pleads guilty in 1998 murder of married couple

- The man responsible for murdering a young married couple on Christmas Eve back in 1998 pleaded guilty Monday.

Minnesota native Jason Preston, 37, pleaded guilty to one count each of second-degree murder for killing 20-year-old Dustin Baity and 18-year-old Carrie Richter, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced on Monday.

As part of the plea agreement, four counts of first-degree murder were dismissed, and he is expected to receive 48 years in prison – 24 years for each count – when he is sentenced on Jan. 6.

Preston admitted he went to the couple’s apartment at 1010 23rd Avenue Northeast on Dec. 24, 1998, and got into an argument with Baity about a drug debt. As it escalated, Preston “grabbed a cord of some sort and strangled the smaller man. Shortly after that, Richter came out of another room and she was stabbed repeatedly,” according to the press release.

Preston did not confess to killing Richter, but instead said he helped another person stab her to death. When pressed on the matter, Preston said Richter struggled, and he held her so the other person could stab her.

However, Freeman said that based on DNA results and the fact that Preston did not previously mention an accomplice, they are quite certain Preston is the only killer.

The case remained unsolved until 2009 when a federal grant paid for DNA testing in cold cases.

In 1999, some evidence from the scene was tested, but only the victim’s DNA was found, according to the release.

In early 2010, police took 13 items to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for further DNA testing, and the lab found a drop of blood from an unknown man.

Year after year, that DNA profile was checked against state and national DNA databases until a match was made to Preston in March of 2013. At the time, he was serving 39 years in prison for a California robbery.

In 2014, a Hennepin County Grand Jury returned the indictment against Preston. Fox 9 covered the indictment and spoke to Richter’s sister Michelle. Michelle and her brother both discovered the murder upon visiting the home.

“My brother and I agree,” she said. “We were the ones who found her, and we said we never want to celebrate Christmas again. It doesn’t mean the same, and it never will.”

At the end of the hearing, Preston asked to address the members of the two families in the courtroom.

“I am truly sorry and sorry for their loss,” Freeman said. “I just pray they have some closure today.” 

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