Northwest Minnesota murderer released 18 years after conviction

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PARK RAPIDS, Minn.—Scott Wayne Carter, 55, one of two men convicted of the November 1996 murder and dismemberment of bartender Greg Johnson of Park Rapids, has been released from prison into a intensive supervised release program, but at least one citizen is concerned about the move.

Even though the Hubbard County sheriff said Carter will be monitored closely, he was surprised that he was released this soon.

Carter was moved Wednesday, March 28, from Minnesota's Moose Lake correctional facility to an Intensive Supervised Release program.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections website describes ISR as a statewide program for the highest-risk offenders. Supervision includes face-to-face contact with an agent four times a week, electronic home monitoring, mandatory work or school, daily curfews, restitution and random drug testing. The DOC identified Carter's assigned agent as Jason Hermiston of Bemidji.

Aaron Swanum, an information officer with the DOC, confirmed via email that Carter was released into the intensive program that expires on Aug. 6, 2028.

Originally, Carter was sentenced to 31 years in prison after pleading guilty in January 1999 to second-degree intentional murder for the fatal shooting, dismemberment and dumping of Johnson's body in Hubbard County. An additional charge of first-degree premeditated murder was dismissed at that time.

At the same time, Carter pleaded guilty in a separate case out of nearby Cass County to one count each of aggravated robbery, kidnapping and second-degree assault (aiding and abetting), while a second set of the same charges was dropped, all stemming from the June 1997 robbery of a liquor store/bar in Hackensack where the employees were bound with duct tape and forced at gunpoint into a back room.

When contacted to discuss a citizen's concern about Carter's return to the area, Hubbard County Sheriff Aukes emphasized that Carter's place of residence is known and he will be monitored. Nevertheless, Aukes expressed surprise that an offender sentenced to 31 years would serve less than 20.

Asked what led to Carter being released from prison at this time, Swanum said, "Minnesota uses determinant sentencing. Under this system, there is no parole board and no time off for good behavior. Offenders serve two-thirds of their prison sentence incarcerated and the remaining third on supervised release or Intensive Supervised Release, transitioning back into the community."

Swanum added, "Carter was given credit for time served at sentencing, totaling 569 days, just over a year and a half. These days are subtracted from the time he owes, which is why he served closer to 19 years in prison than the 20 that may have been expected."

Still in prison with a life sentence is Christopher David Nelson, 48, Carter's partner in both the Johnson murder and the Hackensack robbery. Court records show Nelson pleaded not guilty to the murder charges in December 1999 and was convicted of both first- and second-degree murder in May 2000. In the liquor store robbery case, he pleaded guilty to one count each of kidnapping and aggravated robbery while the other counts were dismissed in October 2001.

Meantime, Nelson appealed his murder conviction all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction in August 2001. The majority opinion, authored by Associate Justice Edward Stringer, includes a detailed history of the case.

In the murder case, the 39-year-old Greg Johnson, a bartender at Art's Place in Park Rapids, was last seen on Nov. 11, 1996, Stringer wrote. According to reports at the time, Johnson's family offered a reward for information about his whereabouts.

Johnson's dismembered body was found in April 1997. Mavis Johnson, the victim's mother, said at the time, "We've suspected foul play from day one."

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the deaths of Johnson and Laura Rosengartner, a Park Rapids woman who was also murdered around that time. Rosengartner's husband later confessed to strangling her.

Two weeks after the Hackensack robbery, in July 1997, Carter and Nelson were captured after robbing a convenience store in Deming, N.M. While in prison in New Mexico, Stringer wrote, Carter contacted Minnesota police authorities and asked for the reward money that had been posted for information about Johnson's murder.

Nelson and Carter were indicted for first- and second-degree murder in November 1997. Carter pleaded guilty of the second-degree charge and testified against Nelson at the trial. Both defendants claimed to be merely the other man's accomplice.

Nelson remains incarcerated at the state correctional facility in Stillwater.