Northeast Minnesota man gets over five years for leaving baby in burning house

Jesse Bonacci-Koski
We are part of The Trust Project.

VIRGINIA, Minn. — Jesse Lee Bonacci-Koski left his brother’s Tower home on the morning of Aug. 2, 2017.

He also left his nephew, 11-month-old Bentley Koski.
The house started on fire. The baby died.

Bonacci-Koski, possibly high on meth, returned home only to flee the scene in a stolen vehicle.

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, the 26-year-old Hibbing man was sentenced to more than five years in prison for his choices that day, Judge Gary J. Pagliaccetti ruled at St. Louis County District Court in Virginia. He will face nearly three years of supervised release that could send him back to prison if he runs afoul of the law again.

A jury last month convicted Bonacci-Koski of manslaughter/child endangerment, manslaughter/child neglect, theft of a motor vehicle and fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance.


Prosecutors asked for a harsher sentence — nearly 10 years — but the judge was moved by a letter submitted by Bentley’s mother.

Pagliaccetti said his sentence stemmed from “the courage, forgiveness, compassion of Krista Swanson.”

The letter was not read aloud and was not immediately available.

St. Louis County prosecutor Jessica Fralich presented an emotional account of the case and argued for close to the maximum allowed sentence based on Bonacci-Koski’s behavior.

“This was a 100 percent preventable tragedy,” Fralich said. “It was not just this family who lost their son … it was this community, this little community, who suffered.”

Public defender J.D. Schmid said time spent in chemical dependency treatment would be a better outcome for all those involved.

“A lengthy prison sentence in this case is not going to … get Bentley back,” he said. “It’s not going to help this family recover.”

Before handing down his sentence, Pagliaccetti told Bonacci-Koski “you thought only of yourself.”


For his statement, Bonacci-Koski apologized and told the judge he loved his nephew and never meant to cause him harm.

“I’d just like to apologize,” he said. “I understand my actions were stupid. … I have to live with this for the rest of my life.”

Related Topics: TOWERFIRES
What to read next