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Judge sentences 'evil' Clearwater County man to life in prison for randomly killing neighbor

29-year-old Christopher Colgrove was high on meth when he stabbed his neighbor in the neck and heart in front of a police officer.

29-year-old Christopher Colgrove listens to his sentence at the Clearwater County Courthouse for the 2020 murder of his neighbor 52-year-old Dawn Swenson.
Matt Henson / WDAY-TV
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BAGLEY, Minn. — She was a jewel of Clearwater County. That's how Judge Robert Tiffany described 52-year-old Dawn Swenson who was murdered by her neighbor who was high on meth and running from police.

Judge Tiffany sentenced 29-year-old Christopher Colgrove to life in prison after a jury convicted him of first-degree murder Wednesday, Feb. 23.

"Not only are you a murderer, you're a thief," said Judge Tiffany. "You've stolen that essential relationship that each of these folks had with Dawn Swenson when you selfishly took her life," said the judge.

"I think that justice was served, but that doesn't take away the pain," said Swenson's sister Heidi Strom.

Colgrove killed his neighbor in her own home as he tried to hide from the cops on Labor Day 2020. The stabbing death happened in front of an officer who had just tried to tased Colgrove, but it didn't work because he was so high on meth.


"A lot of things that could fail that night did for my sister," said Strom.

Dawn Swenson was home alone that night after her mom was rushed to a Fargo hospital with a collapsed lung. She was also supposed to have her young nephew at the home with her, but those plans were canceled at the last minute.

"I'm thankful that my son was not there," said Megan Handyside, another sister of Swanson and Strom.

During the hour-long hearing, Dawn Swenson's family painted a picture of a loving, hard working woman who had a lot of faith in people. The judge even called it a loss he never met her.

Swenson was a longtime donor to Christian World Vision, an organization that helps children and families get the necessities of everyday life.

"From Spain, to Italy, to Africa, she touched many people's lives. She was very giving and very caring," Strom said.

Prosecutors painted a much different picture of Colgrove, a young dad whose rap sheet goes back to his juvenile days.

"The common theme in his life has been using drugs and committing crimes," said Assistant Attorney General John Gross.


"Dawn did not deserve what happened to her. I am not asking for forgiveness, it was a selfish act that I committed against Dawn," Colgrove said.

Colgrove will be eligible for parole in 30 years when he is about 60 years old.

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