Four facing murder charges for beating death outside Rick's Bar
FARGO - Four men face murder charges in connection with a fatal beating outside a bar here early Sunday, charges amended Friday after the victim died following days spent on life support.
All four men - Nicholas Charles Morris, Jason Wayne Oien, both 33, Jessy Duane Olson, 34, and Scott Allen Moen, 35 - appeared Friday in Cass County District Court on the new murder charges, less than 12 hours after 35-year-old Joey Gaarsland died of injuries sustained in what prosecutors called a severe beating.
Previously: Father of five dies after 'senseless' attack outside Fargo bar
Gaarsland was taken to the hospital Sunday morning and spent the week on life support before his death at 3:22 a.m. Friday, after his family donated his usable organs and tissues, court records say.
Witnesses say all four defendants were involved in the assault, and Morris left his driver's license at the scene and Oien left his hat, Cass County prosecutor Tristan Van de Streek said in a court hearing Friday afternoon.
Oien's attorney asked the court to reduce the $1 million bail Van de Streek sought for all of the defendants, saying witnesses' memories could be called into question.
"When you're at a bar and everybody's drunk, I wouldn't say that those are valuable evidence," defense attorney Craig Richie said. "He has informed me in no uncertain terms he didn't do this."
Each defendant faces one count of murder, a Class AA felony punishable by a lifetime prison term without chance for parole. They also face three counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.
Weeping Oien family members gathered outside the courtroom after the hearing. They declined to comment.
Court documents newly filed in the charges say Gaarsland's wife, Laura, told Fargo investigators the fight started inside Rick's Bar, with her yelling at Moen, telling him he was a bad person.
All of them were kicked out of the bar, and the fight re-started in the parking lot shortly after 1 a.m.
It ended with three men surrounding the couple, one punching Joey Gaarsland in the face as he lay unconscious on the pavement, another kicking Laura Gaarsland as she lay nearby, according to court documents.
A bystander who tried to intervene was also injured in the brawl, court records say.
All four men are set to appear next in court in June.
Gaarsland is the father of five children and had worked for the past month as a painter for Morris Painting. He and his wife were at Rick's on a date, a relative told The Forum.
The owner of Morris Painting said Friday none of the defendants worked there, and Nicholas Morris is not related to the owner.