Dec. 3-A Thursday evening fatal stabbing that broke St. Paul's record for the most homicides in one year happened over a parking dispute, according to authorities.
Brian Harry Kjellberg, 50, of St. Paul, was charged Friday in Ramsey County District Court with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Arnell Jermel Stewart, 27, of Georgia.
Authorities say Kjellberg, fed up with people parking on his East Side property, argued, then fought, with Stewart, who had parked his Mercedes SUV in an area Kjellberg had marked with no parking signs. Kjellberg said Stewart punched him in the face several times. Kjellberg responded by hitting Stewart in the chest with a sharpened metal pole, according to the criminal complaint.
The pole punctured Stewart's heart, and though he was alive when police arrived, he died on the operating table at Regions Hospital, having lost too much blood, according to the Ramsey County medical examiner.
PARKING DISPUTE LED TO STABBING
Police responded to a 911 call around 8 p.m. Thursday reporting an assault in the 1700 block of East Seventh Street. The caller, Kjellberg, told dispatchers that a man was trying to take his own car and that he refused to let him take the car and was fighting with the man. Officers found Stewart barely alive with a small puncture hole to his upper chest.
Kjellberg explained to police that he had purchased the property at 1720 E. Seventh St. seven years ago. Since then, he had been in a battle with neighbors who, he said, continued to park on that property despite his "no parking" signs and despite him calling the police multiple times, according to the complaint.
Shortly after 7 p.m., Kjellberg saw a Mercedes SUV parked on his property. He said he waited 10 minutes for the owner to return before calling the non-emergency police number to get the car ticketed. He then called a towing company.
When Stewart came to get his car, Kjellberg said he told him to stay off his property, and Stewart replied that he needed his vehicle. Kjellberg advised Stewart that the police and a tow truck were on the way, according to the complaint.
Kjellberg said Stewart swore at him and continued to his car. When Kjellberg approached, he said Stewart punched him four or five times. Kjellberg had a piece of quarter-inch stainless steel pipe sharpened to a point in his coat. He took the pipe out and hit Stewart in the chest, according to the criminal complaint. Kjellberg said Stewart punched him one more time, causing him to fall, according to the complaint.
When asked why he just didn't let the man take the SUV, Kjellberg told police that he wanted it ticketed and towed so the problem wouldn't recur.
Kjellberg will make his first court appearance Monday.
A YEAR OF RECORD HOMICIDES
The stabbing marked the 35th homicide of the year in St. Paul, breaking the previous record number of 34 in 1992 and 2020.
"This is a sad night for our city," Sgt. Natalie Davis, a police spokeswoman, said after the homicide. "Every person killed this year left behind loved ones. Their deaths left scars on our community and it's hard on our officers, who take these deaths personally."
The first victim of homicide in the city this year was Melody Vang, a 2-year-old found dead on the pack porch of her Dayton's Bluff home. Her mother, Ciashia Lee, was charged in her death. Her case goes to trial in April. Her father, John Vang, also was charged in connection with her death.
In September police investigated a quadruple homicide in which authorities say Antoine Darnique Suggs killed four people, apparently in the West End, and drove around with them in his car for seven hours before dumping their bodies in a Wisconsin cornfield. He was charged with four counts of second-degree murder with intent in the deaths of siblings Jasmine Christine Sturm, 30, and Matthew Isiah Pettus, 26, both of St. Paul; and friends Nitosha Lee Flug-Presley, 30, of Stillwater; and Loyace Foreman III, 35, of St. Paul. Suggs remains in Arizona awaiting extradition to Ramsey County.
In October, a shooting at a West Seventh Street bar claimed the life of 27-year-old Marquisha D, Wiley. Terry Lorenzo Brown Jr., 33, of St. Paul, and Devondre Trevon Phillips, 29, of Las Vegas, were charged in the incident after police said the two opened fire at each other in the crowded Seventh Street Truck Stop bar, with multiple others being injured.
In response to increased levels of gun violence in St. Paul, Police Chief Todd Axtell has reassigned investigators to the homicide unit, and they have reached a clearance rate of more than 90 percent.
Minneapolis' homicide count also is moving toward a record. A fatal shooting on Wednesday marked the city's 91st homicide of the year, according to police. The record was set in 1995 at 97.
Homicides have surged nationwide amid the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying economic and societal dislocations. Despite the upward trend, the numbers overall remain far lower than what the U.S. endured during the crack cocaine epidemic 30 years ago, when St. Paul and Minneapolis set their previous homicide records.