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Jacobson confesses to murder of nephew

Charles Jacobson set his sister's home on fire about 3:30 a.m.

Charles Jacobson set his sister's home on fire about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning near Becida, Minn., intending to shoot and kill the occupants as they fled the flames.

He shot one of four people who ran from the home - his nephew, Dustin Ellenson, 21, who died.

The confession is contained in a Hubbard County District Court complaint charging Jacobson with second-degree murder in Ellenson's death.

In addition, Jacobson, 49, of rural Becida, is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder stemming from the fire.

He also faces a charge of second-degree assault from an incident Tuesday in which, court documents say, Jacobson assaulted his sister, Leann Ellenson, with a hammer in a dispute over a boat.


Jacobson, who was arrested five hours after the shooting Wednesday, made his initial court appearance Thursday. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bond or cash on the murder charges and $50,000 bond or cash on the assault charge.

A grand jury will likely be called to consider charges of first-degree murder, Hubbard County Attorney Greg Larson said.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

The second-degree murder charge Jacobson faces carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, while each attempted murder charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.

Court records say:

About 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jacobson angrily confronted his sister when he found her taking a photograph of a boat on his property.

He followed her to the parking lot of a nearby bar and began smashing Ellenson's car with a hammer, striking her in the process and yelling he was going to kill her.

Ellenson, bleeding from wounds to her head and shoulders, escaped by running inside the business and shouting for the owner to call 911.


Authorities began searching for Jacobson and Ellenson was taken to a Bemidji hospital, where she was treated and released Wednesday.

About 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, prior to Leann Ellenson's release from the hospital, Hubbard County Sheriff's deputy Jim Burgoon answered a knock at his door.

He was met by the sight of Terry Ellenson and Sara Tibbetts, the father and girlfriend of Dustin Ellenson.

The pair told Burgoon that Dustin was in their car and he had been shot by Jacobson.

CPR was attempted but Ellenson was later pronounced dead.

Tibbetts and Terry Ellenson told Burgoon they were in their mobile home with Dustin and his infant daughter when the structure caught fire.

Court records also say that as the four fled their home, Jacobson began shooting at them, striking Dustin.

After his arrest, Jacobson gave investigators a similar version of events.


Jacobson said after he attacked his sister at the Becida bar he got a gun and stole some gasoline.

After pouring the gas on the back door of his sister's home, Jacobson started it on fire and went around to the front door, intending to shoot and kill the people who came out, he told investigators.

Jacobson said he fired three times and knew he had shot his nephew.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com.
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