GRANITE FALLS, Minn. -- Andrew Dikken, accused of the double murder that shocked this western Minnesota city, maintained a calm demeanor during his first court appearance Thursday.
The 28-year-old Granite Falls man spoke with a clear voice as he answered a series of questions from 8th District Judge Thomas van Hon, as part of a hearing designed to establish that Dikken understands the charges he faces.
Dikken is charged with two counts of second degree murder, in connection with the Labor Day shooting deaths of his former girlfriend, Kara Monson, and her boyfriend Chris Panitzke.
When police arrived, Panitzke was still alive, and told officers that Dikken had sneaked into Monson's home at 3:00 a.m., flipped on the bedroom lights and then opened fire.
Monson died instantly, while Panitzke lived several more days before dying from multiple gunshot wounds at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
Monson's mother, Patrice Monson, sat just a few feet away from Dikken in the courtroom Thursday. He did not make eye contact with her, or any of the other members of the Monson and Panitzke families who attended the hearing.
"It was very difficult, but I'm proud to say I had the strength to be there," Monson told reporters after the hearing.
"Because I would do anything for my daughter, that was in her behalf and Chris's behalf."
Kara Monson, who had a young daughter of her own, died just one day shy of her 27th birthday.
"How will I remember her? She's a little girl that I raised, that once you met you never forgot," Patrice Monson said of her daughter.
"She was a beauty inside and out. She loved every walk of life. She had no prejudices. She liked anybody and everyone."
She also described Panitzke as a "wonderful boy" with much to live for, including his own daughter.
Patrice Monson thanked the community for its support, and for allowing the family the privacy they needed to bury her daughter with dignity.
Dikken's defense attorney asked for lower bail arguing that the fact Dikken remained in the Granite Falls area for 15 days after the shootings proves that he's not a serious flight risk.
The prosecutor said the fact that Dikken evaded police for so long, and had traveled through five different states in the weeks prior to the shootings, made him an extreme flight risk.
Judge van Hon agreed. He set Dikken's bail at $3 million, pending his next court appearance on Oct. 3
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