Published December 26, 2023

Christmas Eve Murder

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan
Daniel Breijo (Photo: submitted)
Daniel Breijo (Photo: submitted)

Tear Filled Courtroom

MINOT – The courtroom was packed, standing room only with overflow listening and peering in from the hallway. On the television screen at the front of the courtroom the accused sat in black and white striped inmate clothes inside the Ward County Jail.

Judge Gary Lee, taking the bench as a replacement for an ill Judge Todd Cresap, read a list of legal rights to Daniel Breijo, 39, Surrey. Breijo was making his initial appearance on a charge of Murder, a AA felony, and Attempted Murder, a class A felony, following his Christmas Eve arrest. Killed was Nicholas VanPelt, 41, Minot.

According to an affidavit filed with the court, Minot Police responded to the fourth floor of a southwest apartment complex at 8:44 p.m. December 24. An officer observed bullet holes in the exterior of the apartment while another heard sounds of a “female moaning in pain” coming from inside the apartment.

Police were able to kick in the door and discovered VanPelt “lying face down in a pool of blood in the hallway near the front door.” The female was found in a laundry room suffering from two apparent gunshot wounds to the back and one to a forearm. Breijo was found in a bathroom and taken into custody.

At Tuesday’s late afternoon hearing Lee told the court that all the North-Central District Court judges would be recusing themselves from the case due to familiarity with the victims in the case to “avoid appearance of impropriety.”

Breijo is a federal law enforcement officer employed by Homeland Security. Both victims are well known to courthouse staff.

When Lee asked Assistant State’s Attorney Tiffany Sorgen for bond recommendation, her answer quickly turned to fighting back emotions and then to crying during her response. Sorgen told Lee a “separate prosecutor” would be handling the case and asked that Breijo be held on a $5 million bond.

Lee told the packed courtroom that a “fairly substantial bond was required” and, noting the involvement of a federal law enforcement officer, set bond at $2 million.

A probable cause hearing was scheduled for February 1, 2024, at 1 p.m. Lee noted the date and time would “probably be changed once a new judge is assigned.”

The name of the wounded female has not been released.

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