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Judge orders mental health evaluation for resort murder defendant

The order, sought by Assistant Public Defender Jordan Olsen, who represents Moser, allows a 60-day period during which Moser will meet with a psychologist to determine his mental state.

Crow Wing County Judicial Center Exterior
Crow Wing County Judicial Center Saturday, April 10, 2021. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The criminal case against the man accused of murdering a 46-year-old woman at a Lake Edward resort is on hold while he undergoes a mental health evaluation.

On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Judge Matthew Mallie ordered 29-year-old Cameron Jay Moser of Brainerd to submit to an evaluation to determine his competency to stand trial for the felony charge of second-degree murder with intent but not premeditation.

The order, sought by Assistant Public Defender Jordan Olsen, who represents Moser, allows a 60-day period during which Moser will meet with a psychologist to determine his mental state. The psychologist will then produce a report providing an opinion on Moser’s capacity to understand the criminal proceedings and to participate in his defense, whether he presents an “imminent risk of serious danger” to others or himself, whether treatment would be required for Moser to attain or maintain competence or whether he would ever be capable of the competency required to proceed.

Cameron Jay Moser2.JPG
Cameron Jay Moser

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Olsen also submitted a disclosure of his intent to rely on mental illness or deficiency as a defense at trial, along with an affidavit to support the request for the evaluation.

“Based on my interactions with Mr. Moser, it is my belief that Mr. Moser does not currently possess the capacity to (1) rationally consult with counsel; (2) understand the proceedings in this file; and (3) participate in his own defense,” Olsen’s affidavit stated. “The undersigned (Olsen) has also spoken with jail staff and other collateral sources and believes the information provided supports this motion.”

Moser appeared before Mallie dressed in an orange jumpsuit in the Zoom court hearing from the Crow Wing County Jail. Assistant Crow Wing County Attorney Janine LePage, who appeared on behalf of the prosecution, issued no objections to Olsen’s request for the evaluation. Moser’s next hearing was scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Dec. 29, which allows for enough time for the evaluation and report.

Related: Cozy Bay Resort resort shooting victim remembered for her talent with horses and giving nature

Moser was charged Oct. 11 in Crow Wing County District Court in connection with the shooting death of Bethany Anne Bernatsky at Cozy Bay Resort, north of Merrifield.

At 11:04 p.m. Oct. 7, Crow Wing County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the resort for a shooting complaint. The person making the complaint reported hearing numerous gunshots inside and outside an adjoining cabin. Two other people also called 911 after hearing the gunshots.

Responding law enforcement located the suspect, later identified as Moser, at 11:22 p.m. across the road from the Cozy Bay Resort, near Lake Mollie RV Parcels. Moser carried a rifle and also possessed a handgun.

Officers talked with Moser for the next 90 minutes, during which time he held both firearms — an AR-style rifle and a silver revolver. At 12:50 a.m., deputies arrested Moser and secured the weapons. Moser also had an extra magazine for the rifle.

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After Moser was taken into custody, members of the Crow Wing County Tactical Response Team checked the cabins near the location of the original shooting complaint. An investigator approached the front door of the cabin where the shooting took place and saw the interior entry door was open, allowing him to see inside. The investigator saw a woman lying at the end of a hallway with a large pool of blood under her head. He also saw two bullet holes in a second entry door opening onto a deck.

Bernatsky was pronounced dead at the scene. Her body was transported to Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy. There she was positively identified by a tattoo on her body known to be there by a family member. The medical examiner’s provisional report determined the manner of death to be a homicide and the cause of death to be multiple gunshot wounds, including one to her head.

It was not clear from the criminal complaint filed against Moser whether he and Bernatsky knew each other or what the motive was for the shooting. Sheriff’s Capt. Adam Kronstedt said last week any possible connection between the victim and the alleged perpetrator remained an important aspect of the open investigation.

The criminal complaint stated Moser was familiar with Cozy Bay Resort due to his previous relationship with the former owners’ daughter, and during the previous week, he visited the nearby Lake Mollie RV Parcels asking about her. Her parents continue to own the RV park, according to Crow Wing County property records.

Members of Bernatsky’s family told the Dispatch they believe the incident was a matter of mistaken identity and Moser’s intended target was instead his ex-girlfriend, who they said shared a similar appearance with Bernatsky.

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .
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