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Lemcke released on bail

BENSON -- Andrew Gordon Lemcke, 34, formerly of Appleton, appeared Friday afternoon before District Judge David Mennis in Benson to face a Swift County grand jury's indictments on first-degree, premeditated murder and second-degree, intentional murder in the Sept. 12, 2004, shooting death of his wife, Nichole Riley-Lemcke, 26.

Lemcke's family was able to post $10,000 bail for him by late afternoon and allow for his conditional release, according to his attorney, Brian Wojtalewicz of Appleton.

Minnesota Assistant Attorney General William Klump asked the court to set bail at $1 million, but Judge Mennis offered Lemcke two options. He could post a $100,000 bond or $10,000 cash and be released on conditions that require he not leave the state without the court's approval. Or, he could post $1 million bond or $100,000 cash bail and be released without conditions.

In asking for $1 million bail, Klump argued that Lemcke represented a flight risk due to his connections in Arizona and the possibility of fleeing into Mexico, as well as the seriousness of the charges against him. A first-degree murder conviction carries the possibility of life in prison, while a second-degree murder conviction could result in a 40-year sentence.

Wojtalewicz called the $1 million bail request "absurd.'' He said Lemcke desperately wanted to be reunited with his 5-year-old daughter and poses no risk.

He told the court that Lemcke was returning from Scout camp with his daughter and was only one hour from the Mexican border when Wojtalewicz called him on Nov. 16 to tell him that a grand jury had indicted him on murder. Within two hours of the phone call, Lemcke had arranged for his daughter's care and turned himself in to the sheriff in Pinal County, Ariz., according to Wojtalewicz.

He also pointed out for the court that a Swift County grand jury had heard testimony in the case in April 2005 and had returned no bill of indictment. Lemcke has been working for the past two years as a corrections officer with Corrections Corporation of America in Florence, Ariz., owns a home there, and has not represented a threat to others or a flight risk, Wojtalewicz said.

Attorney Klump told the court that new evidence was presented to the grand jury convened in November and that led to the recent indictments. That evidence has not yet been disclosed. Klump offered some information to the court, but did not describe its significance.

He said that blood was found inside the gun involved in the shooting, on some ammunition and was collected from clothing and the car in which Lemcke transported his wife to the Appleton hospital. He told the court that expert testimony based on the new forensic evidence and presented to the grand jury "pokes some holes'' in the defendant's version of events.

Lemcke maintains the 2004 shooting of his wife in their Appleton home was accidental. He said she had come into the living room where he was asleep and was wielding a gun, that she fired a shot and shouted the name of a former boyfriend. They wrestled and the gun accidentally discharged as they fell, according to the defendant and his attorney.

Lemcke transported her to the Appleton hospital, where she died.

Lemcke had been incarcerated since turning himself into authorities in Arizona on Nov. 16. He was transported on Wednesday to the Meeker County Jail in Litchfield.

In his appearance, he waived his right to a plea hearing on the charges within seven days. He is asking that a public defender be appointed to represent him. Wojtalewicz said Lemcke is on the verge of losing his home in Arizona and the family has exhausted its financial resources on legal expenses previously incurred in this matter.

Lemcke appeared in court in an orange Meeker County jail suit and wearing ankle cuffs while under the guard of Swift County sheriff's officers. His mother, Linda Lemcke, was present, as were the parents of Nichole Riley-Lemcke.

Gary and Kim Riley of Montevideo have been pressing for criminal charges against Lemcke, and had filed a wrongful death suit against him in 2007. That suit alleges that the couple's marriage had soured, and that their daughter had told a number of people prior to her death: "If anything ever happens to me, you know where to look.''

Riley-Lemcke was the mother of three children. The defendant is the father of the youngest child and has legal custody of her.