A 30-year-old Onamia man who admitted to investigators to stabbing a victim and “finish(ing) him off” now faces two counts of murder in Mille Lacs County.

Harlan Davis Swanson is accused of killing 68-year-old Daniel John Nelson.

According to the criminal complaint, the autopsy conducted by Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Ramsey County revealed numerous sharp force injuries to Nelson’s aorta and an injury to his lungs.

Swanson was charged Thursday, April 30, in Mille Lacs County District Court in Milaca with two counts of second-degree murder. One count alleges Swanson’s intent to kill the victim and the second alleges he killed without intent. Each murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Harlan Davis Swanson
Harlan Davis Swanson

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Mille Lacs County Attorney Joe Walsh said these two murder counts are the most serious charges that may be filed in a complaint. First-degree murder charges only occur through a grand jury indictment. Walsh said the county attorney’s office — which is prosecuting the case — believes it has probable cause for both murder counts.

The murder case stems from a call Monday to the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office requesting deputies conduct a welfare check at a home on the 200 block of Pony Farm Road in Onamia. A deputy and an Onamia police officer arrived and located the deceased man under a blanket in the living room in the home. According to the criminal complaint, the victim had several wounds on his body caused by a sharp instrument, including two wounds in the sternum area and a large wound across the throat.

The deputy noticed several spots of blood and saw a fresh boot/shoe print in the basement, which had water on the floor. There was blood on the floor leading to the basement and a window that was pushed from the inside out. No one else was found in the house.

Additional deputies — including a K-9 team and the Mille Lacs Band Tribal Police’s drone unit — were called and a perimeter was set up to locate any individuals who fled from the house.

The search led to a nearby shed style building on 360th Street and Swanson was found and taken into custody. Swanson’s boots were inside the shed and matched the boot tracks found at the residence where the body was found, the complaint stated.

Swanson provided a statement to investigators, including the location of several knives and a rifle in or near the shed. He admitted to breaking into the residence to steal items and getting into an altercation with the victim. Swanson recognized that the victim was not going to survive the stab wounds and “finished him off” with a sharp force injury to the victim’s throat.

Swanson not only faces the two murder counts but he also was charged with three felony first-degree burglary counts where he entered a home without consent to commit a crime and assaulted a victim with a dangerous weapon.

Swanson also faces two felony counts of being a convicted felon and using violence and being in possession of a firearm or ammunition and felony theft. Swanson was convicted of felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Mille Lacs County in 2012 and then he failed to register as a predatory offender on Jan. 23, 2020, in Morrison County.

Seventh Judicial District Judge Mark Herzing, who signed off on the complaint, set bond at $1 million with conditions.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.