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Charges: NE Minnesota man fatally beaten with shovel, moose antler

The blood-covered suspect showed up at the Cook County Sheriff's Office and allegedly admitted to killing the man he accused of stalking his child.

Levi William Axtell
Levi William Axtell

GRAND MARAIS, Minn. — A man allegedly confessed to beating a 77-year-old with a shovel before he “finished him off” with a large moose antler.

Levi William Axtell, 27, of Grand Marais, was arraigned Friday in State District Court on a charge of intentional second-degree murder in Wednesday’s killing of Lawrence Vincent Scully.

Axtell previously sought a protective order against Scully, who he said had been stalking his 22-month-old daughter. Scully was long ago convicted of molesting a 6-year-old child. Several protective orders had been sought against him alleging abuse and harassment in recent years.

Court documents indicate Lawrence Vincent Scully was accused multiple times of sexual abuse or stalking, and was convicted of molesting a child more than 40 years ago.

Axtell, according to a criminal complaint, admitted to entering Scully’s home around 4:45 p.m. and striking him 15-20 times with a spade-style shovel that he found on the victim’s deck.

“Defendant said he had known (Scully) for a long time, and believed him to have sexually offended against children in the past,” the complaint states. “Defendant said he had observed (Scully) parked in his vehicle at locations where children were present and believed he would re-offend.”

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A Cook County sheriff’s deputy entered the residence around 5 p.m. and found Scully with “major head trauma, and surrounded by blood.” He was “obviously dead,” and a bloody shovel was located nearby.

The complaint states that another citizen had called 911 to report that he had seen someone pull up in a van at Scully’s residence, 1109 E. Fifth St., and smash a vehicle before running into the home. The bystander then heard screaming and, while still on the phone with dispatch, reported that the van was headed to the Law Enforcement Center about three blocks away.

Axtell, according to the complaint, was covered in blood as he walked into the lobby, put his hands on his head and said he had just murdered Scully.

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A medical examiner ruled the cause of death to be blunt force head injuries and noted that Scully had defensive wounds to his arms.

Axtell had sought the order for protection against Scully in April 2018, alleging stalking of his child.

"They do not know each other," he wrote in the petition. "The respondent waits for victim to go on walks from daycare and tries to talk to her. ... He has been there many times stalking children in his van. I have seen him parked right next to the school. ... He is a convicted pedophile and him stalking and attempting to groom my daughter is completely inappropriate and needs to stop."

Judge Michael Cuzzo initially granted a temporary order preventing Scully from going within six blocks of the petitioner's home and from entering his workplace or the day care center. However, a permanent order was denied in May 2018 after a hearing, with Cuzzo simply writing "the allegations are not proven."

Records show that orders for protection were entered against Scully in at least two other cases, both of which involved allegations of a long-running history of sexual abuse and claimed he was showing up at the petitioners' homes and workplaces.

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Scully was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in Kanabec County in 1979.

The complaint does not detail any particular new incidents that may have led to Wednesday’s attack. The Cook County Attorney’s Office could at a later date convene a grand jury to consider premeditated murder charges.

Scully, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2014, had said in the past that he was a Twin Cities native who worked in aerospace and electrical fields. He also volunteered services to elderly residents and did antler carvings.

Axtell has little criminal history, with one misdemeanor disorderly conduct conviction. A guilty plea in a felony damage to property case in 2018 ultimately led to dismissal after he completed probation.

To get help

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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