MOTLEY, Minn. — Editor's Note: The following article contains details about domestic violence that may be disturbing to some. Reader discretion is advised.
A 60-year-old man in Morrison County is now facing multiple murder charges after his girlfriend was found dead in their bed last week, the sheriff's office says.
Prosecutors say 60-year-old Harold Wassather is charged with second and third-degree murder after he told police that he didn't mean to kill his 66-year-old girlfriend.
A criminal complaint states that on the morning of March 6, the Morrison County Sheriff's Office received a call from a man in Minneapolis who claimed to be friends with Wassather, who said Wassather admitted to him that he killed his girlfriend.
Wassather and the victim, later identified as 66-year-old Christine Nygard, lived together in a trailer home on Highway 10, south of the town of Motley.
When deputies and the chief of the Motley Police Department arrived at the home they told Wassather to exit with his hands up, according to the complaint.
As he left the home, Wassather allegedly told officers that his girlfriend was dead and that he had killed her. After going inside, officers found Nygard dead on a bed with a sheet up to her neck, with dark bruises covering her face.
An autopsy by the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office found Nygard's cause of death to be blunt trauma to the head and chest, and the manner of death was ruled a homicide, according to the sheriff's office.
After contacting the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) deputies took Wassather to the Morrison County Jail, where sheriff's officials say he agreed to give a statement. Wassather reportedly stated that he and Nygard moved in together in December and reiterated that he did not mean to kill her.
Wassather said that the fatal attack started in the kitchen when Nygard accused him of seeing other women. He said he dragged her around the house, assaulting her and banging her head into the floor and cabinets. When he had her in the bathroom, according to the complaint, Wassather said he punched, slapped and kicked her. The defendants said Nygard then lost consciousness while he was slamming her head into the bathroom cabinets.
When Nygard regained consciousness, Wassather told investigators that he gave her milk to drink. After drinking the milk, she soon lost consciousness again and stopped breathing while still in the bathroom.
According to documents, Wassather then moved Nygard to the bedroom where he covered her up with a bedsheet. He told police that he didn't want her to die but he also said he did not contact anyone for help.
The defendant also reportedly admitted to investigators that he had previously physically assaulted her, but the attacks were never reported to police.
Morrison County Sheriff Shawn Larsen said in a press release that this death from domestic violence could have been stopped.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim’s family for this senseless act of violence and to the First Responders that investigated and processed the scene," he said. "The victim tragically lost her life to domestic violence, which could have been prevented."
Wassather faces up to 40 years for the felony charge of second-degree murder, and up to 25 years for felony third-degree murder.
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