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Judge rules Warren Okerman to stand trial for third-degree murder

LITTLE FALLS - An order was filed Tuesday by Judge Conrad I. Freeberg denying Warren Okerman's motion to dismiss a third-degree murder charge.

Okerman is accused of providing methamphetamine to Leslie Peterson that contributed to her death on June 2, 2012.

A two-hour omnibus hearing was held June 20. Assistant Morrison County Attorney Todd Kosovich presented the testimony of Dr. Kelly Mills of the Ramsey County Medical Examiner who performed Peterson's autopsy. Mills found that the death was caused by methamphetamine toxicity with other health factors, including heart disease, contributing to her death.

Okerman was represented by Scott Wonderlich who countered with the testimony of Dr. John Plunkett, a former Hennepin County medical examiner, who stated that Mills' findings were conclusory given the deceased's existing health problems. The defense argued that the issue before the court was whether the state has provided enough evidence to prove that the methamphetamine, and not Peterson's heart problems caused her death.

Freeberg wrote: "The court disagrees: The state need not exclude the victim's health problems no more than it must exclude other factors as potential causes of death. At this present stage, the state needs only demonstrate probable cause that methamphetamine provided by the defendant and consumed by Peterson contributed to her death . The fact that other causes contribute to the death does not relieve the actor of responsibility."

A plea hearing for Okerman has been set for 9 a.m. Oct. 8. The court may set a jury trial date at that time, or order that a settlement conference be scheduled before the trial.