Closner admits intent to kill
A Zumbrota man pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree attempted murder Monday morning after hitting his estranged wife's co-worker in the head with a hammer in January.
Jonathan Lee Closner, 26, agreed to a plea deal that will eventually dismiss two first-degree attempted murder charges, among others.
According to a complaint filed in Goodhue County District Court Jan. 15, Closner entered his wife's residence at 106 E. Jefferson Drive, Zumbrota, at about 4:30 a.m. Jan. 14.
When he saw what he assumed was 20-year-old Daniel David Yennie's baseball cap in the living room, he grabbed a hammer and proceeded to his wife's bedroom. After seeing Yennie in bed with his wife, Closner hit him several times in the head with the tool.
In court Monday, Closner admitted that he intentionally hit Yennie and that he was trying to murder him.
As a result of his plea, a jury trial scheduled to begin Monday morning was canceled.
Though Closner won't formally be sentenced until July 12, the plea agreement outlines a 212-month prison sentence. Assistant Goodhue County Attorney Chris Schrader said Minnesota state sentencing guidelines would generally call for a 136-to-196-month sentence.
However, because of four aggravating factors, Closner's sentence will be longer. Those factors include: the crime's particular cruelty; the fact that Yennie was vulnerable because he was asleep at the time of the attack; the fact that Closner violated an order for protection that prohibited him from being at his wife's residence; and the fact that Yennie suffered severe personal injury.
Schrader said in court that as a result of his injuries, Yennie had part of his brain and skull removed. Schrader added that one of Yennie's doctors at Mayo Clinic said that this was "one of the most serious head injuries he's seen in the past seven years."
As part of the plea agreement, two first-degree attempted murder charges, as well as first-degree and second-degree assault, first-degree burglary and domestic abuse charges will be dismissed, Judge Larry Clark said. They will be formally dismissed at sentencing.
Yennie's mother, Christie Yennie, said she was pleased with how the case is being handled.
"I think that the county prosecutor has done really well with this. What's happening is very normal. It's what I expected to happen," she said Monday afternoon.
She added that she does feel that Closner has "accepted his wrongdoing."
Both Closner's and Yennie's families were in the courtroom Monday.
"I feel bad for his family," Christie Yennie said, adding that she feels that there is "a lot of sadness on both sides."
"I'm angry," she continued. "I'm hurt that my son will never be the same."
Yennie said her son is at the Courage Center, a rehabilitation and recovery center in Golden Valley, Minn. Even though doctors said he will never be able to talk or walk again, Yennie said her son is able to say some words and is learning to walk again.
"He's doing many things they said he'd never do. Danny's learning to laugh again," she said. "He's trying to enjoy life the best he can."
Closner will be held in the Goodhue County Adult Detention Center until his sentencing July 12.