Man convicted in deadly stabbing over parking dispute avoids prison time

A mother in Saint Paul is outraged over the sentencing of her son's murderer in a dispute over parking on private property. The convicted killer, Brian Kjellberg, will not serve his sentence in prison but in the Ramsey County Workhouse instead.

The deadly stabbing incident happened nearly two years ago. Kjellberg has consistently claimed that his actions were in self-defense. During the sentencing hearing, he faced up to 12.5 years in prison for murder.

"It was a slap in my face this whole entire trial," said Tabatha Lewis, the victim's mother, who left the Ramsey Courthouse in disgust on Wednesday. She had just given a victim impact statement about the loss of her 26-year-old son AJ Stewart.

She was devastated to learn that the man responsible for her son's death would not be going to prison but to the Ramsey County Workhouse for a term of one year.

"I'm feeling like as a parent who's been let down by the system," Lewis said.

Brian Kjellberg

The deadly encounter occurred outside Kjellberg's Saint Paul home. Surveillance video from the December 2, 2021 incident was critical evidence in Kjellberg's second-degree murder trial. The jury ultimately convicted the 51-year-old for a dispute over parking on his property along the 1700 block of 7th Street East.

According to court records, Kjellberg was frustrated by neighbors often parking off the alley at the back of his property. On that night, there was a scuffle. Kjellberg, who had called a tow truck and the police to report the parking infringement, pulled out a ¼-inch stainless steel pipe sharpened to a point from his coat and stabbed Stewart after being punched several times.

Earl Gray, Kjellberg's veteran criminal defense attorney, argued for leniency at sentencing. He maintained that this was not murder, but rather an act of self-defense from his client to save his own life. Gray also highlighted Kjellberg's pristine record, Naval service, and deteriorating health.

Ramsey County Chief Judge Leonardo Castro ultimately ruled in Kjellberg's favor, opting for the workhouse while keeping the 12.5 year prison sentence over Kjellberg's head should he mess up.

"This guy is a great guy. He's never done anything wrong in his life. And it would be senseless to send him to prison where he'd die for sure. He's very unhealthy. And the case was closed," Gray said.

Kjellberg was taken into custody immediately after the hearing to begin serving his one-year sentence in the workhouse. Judge Castro stayed the 12.5 year prison term for a decade, meaning as long as he stays out of trouble and follows all his requirements of probation, he will not spend a single day in prison.