ST. PAUL, Minn. - A man charged in the murder of a young St. Paul, Minnesota mother who tried to stop a home invasion has been found not guilty.
Authorities charged three men and a woman -- 25-year-old Alvin Bell, Jr., 26-year-old Isiah Harper, 42-year-old Michelle Koester and 31-year-old Albert McIntosh -- with multiple crimes against several people, including 24-year-old Sarah Wierstad, which were allegedly conducted over the span of more than three hours on the night of Oct. 18, 2015.
When charges were filed last December, Hennepin County (Minnesota) Attorney Mike Freeman called the incident "a night of terror," saying it was one of the most violent rampages he's seen in his career.
McIntosh, the only one to be charged for Wierstad's death, was in court Friday, where he faced second-degree murder. As the not guilty verdict was read, both jury members and Wierstad's family were visibly emotional, some in tears.
“We felt that the state had a good case. We left everything up to the jury," said Julie Zietlow, Wierstad's mother. “I'm angry but not at the jury. It’s just what it is.”
No murder weapon was ever found in Wierstad's death and prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of one of McIntosh's accomplices, which painted a picture with too much doubt for the jury to overcome.
Members of Wierstad's family told KARE (NBC Minneapolis) they are very upset because questions will always remain.
“We still don’t have no closure because we don’t know who did it," said Terry Zietlow, Wierstad's father.
They hope that will change, as McIntosh faces an additional murder charge from a separate incident on the same night.
“There was two people murdered that night, my daughter and the other man in Hennepin County, and that family is going through the same thing we are," Julie Zietlow said. "I'm hoping he will be judged in Hennepin County but if not here on Earth, he'll get his judgment once he leaves Earth because he knows what he did."
The family said they'll be watching that case very closely, hoping to see him brought to justice then.
A criminal complaint states Wierstad was shot multiple times, including once through the heart, after she interrupted a robbery in progress at her home around 7:50 p.m. on that October night.
According to the charges, that was the first crime committed that night -- and the first murder. The group was spotted on surveillance video leaving the area of Wierstad's home shortly after a call was made regarding shots being fired. A little after 9 p.m., the three men are accused of robbing another man outside an apartment building in Minneapolis, then driving away in the man's vehicle.
Then by 10 p.m., police were dispatched to another call of shots fired and found a 42-year-old man in the alley, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. The man died from his injuries.
More than an hour later, around 11:17 p.m., police were sent to a home where a man told officers he, his wife and their four children were the victims of an armed home invasion. He said one man, armed with a short-barreled gun, came through their back door with two others. Charges state the men ordered the family to get on the floor while they stole credit cards, cell phones, cash, a small safe and a Play Station 3.
McIntosh will be back in court early next year on that second murder charge.