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Man's appeal for the 2007 shooting death of his father-in-law heard

Almost five years after Steven Bernard Radke was convicted for the murder of his father-in-law, the Minnesota Supreme Court has taken up his appeal.

Radke was convicted Feb. 12, 2009, of shooting and killing his father-in-law, Darrell Buesgens, on June 20, 2007, at Buesgens’ rural Emily home. The conviction on a criminal charge of premeditated first-degree murder meant a life sentence in prison for Radke.

Convictions of first-degree murder are automatically appealed to the supreme court. Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan said Radke’s appeal was heard in Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday. Ryan said oral arguments were heard and now the judge has 60 to 90 days to make a decision to affirm or deny the jury’s 2009 conviction.

During the 2009 closing arguments at Radke’s trial, there was no dispute between Ryan and Radke’s attorney, Gary Bryant-Wolf that Radke shot and killed Buesgens. There was, however, differing arguments about what led up to the shooting and whether it was premeditated or an act of self-defense.

Ryan said Radke and his wife at the time, Melanie Buesgens, had a rocky relationship and that she often left him to stay with her parents. In a June 20, 2007, phone call before Darrell Buesgens’ murder, Melanie Buesgens told Radke that she wanted a divorce. He then goes back home looking for sympathy from a friend but finds none.

Instead, Ryan said Radke snuck a .308-caliber rifle out of his bedroom window, got on his four-wheeler and drove it to Buesgens’ property. Once there he hid the four-wheeler, walked through the woods and took a hidden position outside of Darrell Buesgens’ home.

Ryan said Radke fired a warning shot. When Darrell Buesgens came out of his house to investigate, Radke shot him twice.

Ryan closed his arguments with an audio tape of Radke responding to a question from law enforcement by saying, “He’ll never get away with it though because I planned it and I murdered him.”

Ryan said, “It was premeditated. In other words, he planned it, he knew what he was doing. The defendant considered, planned, prepared for and determined to commit the act before he committed it.”

Bryant-Wolf disagreed, saying the short audio clip was taken out of context. He said Radke told officers that no one else was involved because he wanted to protect his wife.

Bryant-Wolf said Melanie Buesgens invited Radke to the house that day and Radke hid his four-wheeler and brought a rifle because he feared Darrell Buesgens, with whom he had a poor relationship.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at