Published November 17, 2023

Possible Dismissal in Knutson Murder Case 

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan
Nichole Rice [Photo: submitted]
Nichole Rice [Photo: submitted]

Judge to Rule on Request 

MINOT – No decision was immediately made at a Motion to Dismiss hearing in the long-running Anita Knutson murder case. The hearing was held Friday morning in front of North-Central District Court Judge Richard Hagar.

Knutson was murdered in June of 2007, but it wasn’t until March of 2022 that Nichole Rice was arrested and charged with the crime. Knutson and Rice shared an apartment in northwest Minot. 

During Friday’s hearing, defense attorney Philip Becher called Dr. Monte Miller to testify. Miller, a forensic scientist with a degree in biochemistry, told the court he has testified “about 65 times” regarding DNA analysis. The court ruled Miller to be an expert witness. 

Becher voiced exception to a statement made by a Minot Police detective during a previous hearing on the case regarding DNA evidence, saying Rice was “the only person not excluded” by DNA analysis. Miller agreed. 

“That’s false. Incorrect,” said Miller while under oath. “The DNA report demonstrates why it is false. The court should reject that statement and the opposite is true.” 

DNA testing from evidence recovered from the crime scene, primarily a bloody knife believed to be the murder weapon, was tested in 2016 and again in 2023 using updated technology. Results were “inconclusive.” 

Assistant State’s Attorney Tiffany Sorgen countered that “probable cause is the standard here” and said there was no evidence to show there was any intentional attempt to mislead the court during an earlier hearing. 

Amy Gebhardt was called to the stand by the State. Gebhardt has been with the North Dakota Attorney General Crime Lab for 26 years, developing DNA profiles since 2001. 

“When you know better, you do better,” said Gebhardt when asked about the 2016 and 2023 DNA analysis. 

In her summary to the court on the Motion to Dismiss, Sorgen stated, “I don’t think the defense reached the burden of probable cause even without the DNA testimony.” 

Hagar gave the defense 10 days to file further written testimony and the State 10 days to respond to that filing. A ruling on dismissal of the case is not expected until mid to late December. A jury trial in the case remains scheduled to be begin July 15, 2024. 

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