Victim’s family looks toward future as Munger found guilty of murder
Michael Lowell Munger murdered Lynnie Ann Loucks April 28, 2022, at a residence north of Brainerd.
BRAINERD — After less than a half hour of deliberation, a Crow Wing County jury found 54-year-old Michael Lowell Munger guilty Tuesday, May 2, on three criminal charges in the murder of Lynnie Ann Loucks.
“It’s a day of moving on … like closure,” said Dennis Loucks, Lynnie Ann Loucks’ husband, after the guilty verdicts were read in Crow Wing County District Court. “It’s what Lynnie would have wanted from us, to not stay stuck.”
Goofy, full of color, with a laugh as memorable as it was contagious is how family members previously described Lynnie Loucks, who was a wife, a mother and 43 years old when Munger took her life. Lynnie Loucks went through life with one goal — making everyone's day better, her family said.
Dennis and Lynnie Loucks owned and operated L.A. Portrait Studio in Willmar for seven years and in the Brainerd lakes area for three more before Lynnie Loucks went back to school for cosmetology. Her family said she developed a loyal following for her work.
“I remember her just dancing and cleaning and just being goofy. Here she is fully pregnant, she's got Elvis playing and she's grabbed a popsicle out of the freezer, and she starts singing into it like it's a microphone,” said Trisha Szczodroski, Lynnie’s stepdaughter, in an interview in 2022. “She's just dancing and laughing and giggling and singing at the same time … and like four hours later going into labor, having her baby.“
Lynnie had four children.
Munger, who represented himself at his trial in Crow Wing County District Court, was accused of murdering Lynnie Loucks April 28, 2022, at a residence they had shared on Smith Road north of Brainerd.
In his closing arguments Tuesday, Munger stated he believed in taking responsibility for his actions. “I want you to understand the truth — the facts,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is that if Mr. (Tim) Otterness would have come down the driveway that morning, he would have been dead,” Munger added.
Otterness, Munger’s former friend and landlord of the home on Smith Road, t estified in the murder trial April 26. Otterness was one of several people, including law enforcement, family, friends and others who gave testimony during the trial that started April 24.
Later in his closing statement, Munger said the murder was “not premeditated and happened in a rage of passion where everything came to a head that morning.”
Assistant Crow Wing County attorney Janine LePage gave closing arguments for the state and opened by repeating Munger’s own words, when he said Lynnie Loucks would not be with anyone else.
“It’s not about whether or not he killed her,” LePage said. “He admitted it. It's about premeditation.”
LePage reiterated how Munger purchased the bat the day prior and then stayed awake all night thinking about what he was going to do.
Munger was arrested at the residence and arraigned April 29, 2022, on charges of second-degree murder with intent but without premeditation and second-degree murder without intent but while committing a felony in connection with Lynnie Loucks’ death. In July 2022, a Crow Wing County grand jury indicted Munger with first-degree murder.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Munger, Dennis Loucks requested a welfare check in April of 2022 at the residence after Munger messaged him that Lynnie Loucks was “gone.”
When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found Munger in the driveway of the residence with blood on his body and clothing. He told deputies something to the effect of, “You’re too late, she’s gone,” according to the criminal complaint.
Lynnie Loucks was located inside a basement bedroom in the house lying on the ground in a pool of blood with a belt around her neck. Munger told law enforcement officers he “did what he did” and used a belt to strangle Lynnie Loucks and a baseball bat to strike her.
During Munger's trial, a medical examiner testified Lynnie Loucks' cause of death was strangulation and traumatic brain injury due to physical assault and the manner of death was homicide.
Court resumed Tuesday morning with testimony from Crow Wing County Sheriff investigator Kris Brose, who spoke about the warrants he served on Munger’s purchases the day before the murder.
Brose told the jury Munger made two significant purchases the day before the murder with the first being a purchase of a baseball bat at 4:57 p.m. from Dick's Sporting Goods in Baxter. Munger then went to Fleet Farm in Baxter where he purchased a package of 15-inch zip ties, a torch kit, a spark lighter and duct tape. LePage then played the surveillance video for the jury.
With the conclusion of Brose’s testimony at around 10:40 a.m., the state rested its case. Munger called no witnesses and rested his case as well. Munger then requested the court add in a downward departure in his charges based on a “heat of passion” defense. LePage argued against Munger’s request, citing case law which stated premeditation and heat of passion can not coexist in a case.
Judge Kristine DeMay ruled against Munger, saying his request was denied based on the evidence presented in the case.
After the guilty verdict was returned, Munger requested an expedited placement to prison as his jail-served kosher meal had been the same since December. DeMay said she would file the request with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, though that request would likely not be filled as the DOC fills requests based on jail capacity.
The first-degree murder charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Sentencing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. May 17 in Crow Wing County District Court.
Munger’s criminal history includes several instances of domestic abuse in both Minnesota and Washington. According to court records:
- On June 14, 2011, Munger pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor domestic violence offense in the state of Washington.
- On July 9, 2015, Breezy Point police officers responded to a domestic dispute involving Munger and a woman. Afterward, the victim filed a harassment restraining order against Munger. On July 15, 2015, Munger called her work and said, "I don't care about your restraining order. I'm going to kill you." He then repeated, "I'm going to kill you" and hung up the phone. The call came from a cellphone listed to the defendant's sister who lived in Bellevue, Washington. In the criminal complaint filed against Munger, it stated “a suspicious male was observed in the area of the defendant's residence but ran away when he was seen by … (a) child. After the male ran away, it was discovered that a can full of gasoline had been left at (her) residence. It is believed that the person who left the gas can is the defendant.” On Dec. 10, 2015, Munger was convicted of felony terroristic threats with reckless disregard for the risk of causing terror in another person. He served a year in the St. Cloud prison for the crime.
- On Oct. 3, 2015, the Breezy Point and Pequot Lakes police departments were looking for Munger in regard to a possible order for protection violation. After attempting to evade officers, Munger denied violating the order for protection but said the protected party should know better than to "poke a bear” and the protected party was "going to bring this on herself." During questioning, Munger seemed angered by the officer’s questions, according to the criminal complaint, and said he was going to have to "look you up," referring to the officer. He also asked the officer if he had a wife and kids and said, "We should meet sometime when you're off duty." A charge for gross misdemeanor stalking arising from this incident was later dropped.
- On May 1, 2016, the Crosslake Police Department received a report of a possible order for protection violation in Crosslake. According to the criminal complaint, a protected party received a friend request on Facebook from Munger. On Sept. 25, 2016, Munger was convicted of felony violating an order of protection.
TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email email@example.com .