FARGO — A 44-year-old Fargo man will likely spend nearly three decades in prison for beating his friend to death with a plant stand more than a year ago in a Fargo apartment.
Darrell Clinton Peterson, no address, said he was sorry Monday, March 1, in Cass County District Court before Judge Steven McCollough sentenced him to 28 years in prison for killing 64-year-old Duane Darling.
“I wish I could take it back,” Peterson said.
On Nov. 13, 2019, a neighbor found Darling bleeding from his head in his Pioneer Manor apartment at 201 11th St. N. Security footage shows Peterson and Darling entering the building the night before, and Peterson left in the early hours of Nov. 13, 2019, according to court documents.
The next person to enter Darlings’ apartment after that was his neighbor, who told police he heard the 64-year-old crying for help.
Police later arrested Peterson.
It’s unclear why Peterson bludgeoned Darling, but there is no evidence to suggest he acted in self-defense, Assistant State’s Attorney Ryan Younggren said Monday. The prosecutor said the two men were “drinking buddies” and had been out consuming alcohol that night.
A confrontation broke out between the two, Younggren said. Peterson blacked out and doesn’t remember anything that happened in the apartment, his defense attorney Nick Thornton said.
In a previous hearing, Thornton said the two were so intoxicated before Darling died that they switched to something that wasn’t alcohol, possibly a substance similar to antifreeze.
Peterson has a history of abusing alcohol that is reflected in previous criminal cases.
Because Peterson doesn’t remember killing Darling, he has entered an Alford plea, which means he could maintain his innocence but acknowledges a jury has enough evidence to find him guilty.
However, Thornton noted Peterson is not asserting he is innocent. North Dakota does not recognize pleas that state a person doesn’t recall the events of a crime but understands they will likely be found guilty by jurors.
Despite not recalling what happened, Thornton said his client is remorseful and has accepted responsibility.
“This person was his friend,” Thornton said of the relationship Darling and Peterson shared.
Younggren said life expectancy charts predict Peterson has about 33 years of life left.
No family or friends spoke on Darling's behalf during Monday's sentencing hearing.