GRAND FORKS, — According to testimony given during a preliminary hearing Friday at the Grand Forks County Courthouse, Ray Borth was in the basement of Samantha Jo Wilson's Northwood home packing clothes when he heard the shot that killed his son on the night of Jan. 26.
Upon hearing gunfire in the house, Borth said he hurried upstairs and found 15-year-old Jonah Borth walking from the hallway to the dining room. Grand Forks County Sheriff's Capt. Joel Lloyd testified Friday that he didn't remember the exact words Ray Borth told investigators his son said to him, but Lloyd said it was something along the lines of, "Sam shot me. I was trying to give her a hug. I love you."
Borth called 911, and he and Wilson both attempted lifesaving measures. Both spoke to dispatchers at different times, and each at some point told dispatchers that Wilson was the one who pulled the trigger. Jonah Borth died of a gunshot wound to the upper right chest, and was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
Wilson faces life in prison if she is convicted of murder. She appeared for a preliminary hearing and arraignment Friday, where prosecutors made their case that there is enough evidence to establish probable cause that Wilson intentionally, knowingly, or by manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life committed the crimes of which she is accused.
Judge Jay Knudson admitted in court that it was a difficult decision. No evidence was presented Friday that Wilson intended to shoot Jonah Borth. In fact, there was no evidence to definitively place the gun in her hand at the time of the shooting, defense attorney Rhiannon Gorham argued. Gorham suggested that Wilson could possibly be convicted of negligent homicide, or manslaughter, but not intentional murder.
Lloyd recalled arriving at the "chaotic" scene of the crime on Jan. 26. The incident was initially called in as an accidental shooting. He said a safe of guns was located in Wilson's bedroom, and a 9 mm Sig Sauer pistol was located on the dining room table near Jonah Borth's body.
He testified that that pistol was found by ballistics testing to be operational, and so a misfire was ruled out. When asked why Wilson wasn't tested to see if she had gunpowder residue on her hands, Lloyd explained that in a confined area like the Northwood house, gunpowder smoke tends to linger in the area, getting residue on anyone who was present at the scene, making it an ineffective way to determine whether someone fired a gun.
He said investigators have so far found that the relationship between Jonah Borth and Wilson was "good." When asked whether investigators have discerned any motive Wilson might have had to commit a crime of violence against Jonah, he said they have not.
"Not against Jonah," he responded.
He also testified that an autopsy showed that Jonah Borth was killed by the bullet that struck and went through him. The autopsy found that the manner of his death was homicide.
Ultimately, Knudson found that there was sufficient probable cause to proceed with the intentional murder case. He based his decision in part on the statements of Jonah Borth, Ray Borth, and Wilson, but also in part on Wilson's later expletive-filled statement to law enforcement, in which she said "I ain't got no ... remorse."
"It's hard because there are a lot of question marks in this case," Knudson said. "However, it is a probable cause hearing. The burden is probable cause whether a crime was committed and whether Ms. Wilson committed that crime."
A final dispositional conference in Wilson's case has been scheduled for Dec. 10. There, a trial is expected to be scheduled for early 2021. Wilson faces an additional charge of contact by bodily fluids with a correctional officer for allegedly spitting on a jail employee during her intake. She faces an additional maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted of that charge.