Accused murderer makes court appearance
According to the criminal complaint filed by the Crow Wing County Attorney’s Office, the 23-year-old victim was reported missing Oct. 28.
BRAINERD — Whether a conflict of interest existed for the judge presiding over the case against the 45-year-old Center Township man accused of murdering his daughter’s boyfriend was discussed in court Thursday, Dec. 29.
Michael Lee LaFlex appeared in person before Judge Charles Halverson in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd. Halverson asked LaFlex, along with his public defender Mark Hansen, whether they felt the judge should be recused.
Before becoming a judge, Halverson was previously assigned as a defense attorney to assist on a case involving LaFlex. Halverson said he only assisted on a portion of the case and did not complete the case for LaFlex.
After leaving the courtroom to confer with his client for a moment, Hansen said neither he nor LaFlex felt the previous working relationship would have any impact on the judge’s ability to try the case.
Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan said he also did not see a reason, from the state’s point of view, for the judge to recuse himself.
With both parties content with Halverson overseeing the case, Hansen asked for more time to go over evidence before moving forward with the case as not all the evidence has been released. Ryan had no objections to the defense's request for more time.
LaFlex’s next court appearance is scheduled for 4 p.m. March 9, 2023, in Crow Wing County District Court. LaFlex remains in custody in the Crow Wing County Jail.
In November, LaFlex was arraigned on a charge of second-degree murder with intent but not premeditation — a serious felony.
According to the criminal complaint filed by the Crow Wing County Attorney’s Office, 23-year-old Bryce Brogle was reported missing Oct. 28 after going to a storage unit rented by LaFlex two days earlier.
During the investigation, LaFlex initially told law enforcement Brogle was arrested by unknown officers and Brogle had two cellphones confiscated by law enforcement. LaFlex later changed his story, saying he disposed of the phones in a garbage can at a gas station in Brainerd, according to the complaint. Investigating law enforcement officers found the phones.
The complaint states further investigation included information gained from a concerned citizen, who wished to remain anonymous but was known to law enforcement. The citizen had occasional conversations throughout the evening of Oct. 29 with a family member of LaFlex. The family member said LaFlex disclosed details of the incident with them, including that LaFlex believed Brogle was abusing LaFlex’s daughter.
According to the citizen, the family member learned LaFlex shot Brogle at a storage unit complex in Crow Wing County on or around the evening of Oct. 26 and moved the body using a sled. LaFlex then cleaned the storage unit with bleach and told the family member he disposed of the body and Brogle would not be found as the body was buried, according to the complaint.
Law enforcement executed a search warrant at LaFlex’s storage unit Oct. 29 and recovered a substance testing positive for blood on the floor, along with a bottle of bleach. There were also marks on the concrete floor that appeared consistent with a similar width of a sled dragging across the floor.
Law enforcement conducted a foot search of public land Oct. 30 in Crow Wing County looking for Brogle’s body. They identified a possible gravesite and excavated a body with an apparent gunshot wound to the back of the head. The body, later identified as Brogle’s, was transported to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy, which determined the cause of death to be a distant gunshot wound to the back of the head.
The second-degree murder charge carries a maximum penalty of 40 years imprisonment.
TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .