Sep. 24-LE CENTER - The rural Le Center man charged with killing his father before setting their residence on fire in January 2021 pleaded guilty to second-degree murder during a hearing Friday.
Hardy Robert Wills-Traxler, 27, was charged with second-degree murder and arson in Le Sueur County District Court in January 2021 after investigators reported he confessed to repeatedly stabbing Bruce Alan Traxler, 64. The arson charge will be dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Wills-Traxler faces two-thirds of a more than 25-year sentence in prison, followed by being on conditional release for the final third, according to court documents.
He'd receive credit for time served in the county jail and at Anoka State Hospital since his arrest in January 2021. The details of his guilty plea will be finalized at a Nov. 18 sentencing hearing with Judge Patrick Biren.
A court-ordered examination determined Wills-Traxler was incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness in April 2021, putting the murder case on hold and leading to his civil commitment.
He was later determined to be competent in October, with neither Assistant Attorney General Daniel Vlieger from the prosecution nor Assistant Public Defender Richard Ohlenberg from the defense objecting to the psychologist's findings.
Court documents suggested evaluators in his criminal and civil commitment cases agreed that Wills-Traxler has a mental illness, but didn't have a consensus on the nature of the illness.
"This is a unique case in the sense that all the experts and psychiatrists are having difficulty narrowing down a particular diagnosis," said Assistant Attorney General Daniel Vlieger to The Free Press in October.
Vlieger and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison sought an aggravated sentence - meaning a higher than average prison sentence - against Wills-Traxler in a court filing on Sept. 15 based on the defendant's attempt to conceal the body after the murder. The maximum sentence that Wills-Traxler could've faced was 40 years.
The father and son lived together at the residence in rural Le Center. Wills-Traxler reportedly told investigators he stabbed his father "a bunch of different times" with a knife because he was scared during an argument.
He then washed his hands, gathered some belongings, started a fire by placing pillows on the stove burners, and drove away. A Blue Earth County Sheriff's deputy arrested him hours later near the intersection of Highway 169 and Highway 60.
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