February Date Set For Nuttall Kidnapping Trial
A jury trial is expected to begin next month for one of the defendants in the Aug. 22, 2014, disappearance of Christopher Rossing, 25, of Albion Township. Robert Nuttall, 28, of Hutchinson, has been charged with felony kidnapping. Nuttall was arrested on Sept. 10, and his girlfriend, 32-year-old Gwen Butcher of Hutchinson, was arrested two days later and charged with felony obstruction of justice. Butcher was later released from custody on bail, but Nuttall has remained in jail.
At a contested omnibus hearing on Dec. 22, Nuttall’s defense said the evidence collected should not be admitted for trial because law enforcement officials found the burned bone fragments after private searches reported their findings. “(The defense is) basically saying that because some members of the search party have connections to Christopher Rossing, that they should be suspect in what they found,” said Wright County prosecutor Brian Lutes. “But here an officer went out and found the same thing, so I think that’s a misplaced challenge.”
Selection for a jury trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Feb. 17. The bone fragments discovered are being analyzed for DNA evidence, but so far no DNA has been obtained so the case continues to center around the kidnapping charge rather than murder. “Testing (of the bone fragments) is still underway as I understand it,” said Lutes. “Some additional items were sent to the (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) a couple of weeks back. That part of the investigation hasn’t come back yet.”
Lutes confirmed that at the time of Rossing’s disappearance Nuttall was facing a pair of felony assault charges for previous altercations in Howard Lake, though he had posted bail and was free on various conditions. Those charges remain active, but are not being addressed at present in light of the more kidnapping charge. According to Fox 9 news, Nuttall had also been convicted of misdemeanor assault in a 2013 Hutchinson incident, and was part of an altercation at an Annandale apartment in March of 2012 that did not result in charges due to conflicting witness accounts.
The criminal complaint against Nuttall states that he and Rossing were involved in a fight along Highway 12 in Howard Lake after an evening at the bars in town. The last time Rossing was seen, he was unconscious in the back of Butcher and Nuttall’s vehicle. Lutes said there are no other suspects in Rossing’s disappearance, but others may have knowledge of the case. “We think maybe some people have information about the disposal of his body, and we’re still working on that angle,” Lutes said. A public defender from the Willmar area has been appointed to represent Nuttall.
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