AITKIN — A contested omnibus hearing for the 34-year-old Swatara man facing second-degree murder charges in the death of an Outing woman is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. April 20 in front of Judge David F. Hermerding in Aitkin County District Court.
On the docket is to discuss a change of venue. A change of venue involves moving a trial to a different location than where the case was first brought before a court.
The case is against Joshua Karjala, 34, who was charged Nov. 7 with felony second-degree murder in connection to the strangulation death of 35-year-old Michelle Mae of Outing. Mae was reported missing after her family had no contact with her since Oct. 3. Upon location of Mae’s Black 2004 Jeep Liberty on Oct. 4, investigation and searches began, and on Oct. 5, Karjala was arrested for violating his probation and was taken into custody.
On Oct. 15 while executing a search warrant at Karjala’s residence, investigating officers found her body buried under the soil in the crawl space. Items of her clothing were found beneath her body. The body was taken to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner for an autopsy. The examiner’s officer determined the manner of death to be homicide by asphyxia due to strangulation.
According to the criminal complaint, Karjala told sheriff deputies he and Mae met for consensual sex at his residence Oct. 2 and she left around midnight. While in Aitkin County Jail, on Oct. 8 Karjala told two correctional officers he overdosed on ecstasy, strangled a girl, and she was now missing. Karjala told the officers he could not remember doing that. He also told a nurse in the jail “I may have killed a girl.” Karjala told the nurse he had been using methamphetamine laced with ecstasy, that he got violent and choked out a girl several times, but couldn’t remember anything else because of his drug use.
When informed by Aitkin County Sheriff and BCA officials that Mae’s body was located at his residence, Karjala said, “That’s not possible. I watched her leave.”
Karjala’s Public Defender Charles Frey filed a motion Nov. 18 requesting a change in venue stating it would be impossible for the defendant to have a fair and impartial trial in Aitkin County. The case is being prosecuted by Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Daniel Vlieger of St. Paul, who filed a motion Jan. 7 to oppose the change in venue motion. In the state’s motion filed in court, a letter signed by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison stated the defense did not provide any additional documents or legal analysis to support a change in venue.
Karjala continues to be held in the Aitkin County Jail. When he was charged, the judge set unconditional bail in the amount of $5 million or conditional release in the amount of $2 million bond and $500,000 cash bail.
Mae left behind three children, her parents and three siblings.