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Suspect in stabbing over iguana found guilty

After an hour and a half of deliberation Wednesday, a Douglas County jury found John Leslie Anderson guilty of four counts of felony assault and two counts of misdemeanor assault for an incident involving an iguana.

The charges stem from an altercation on April 11, when Anderson, 49, of Minneapolis, stabbed Wade Burnside, 19, of Alexandria, with a 12-inch kitchen knife after Burnside and two friends tried to take an iguana from the residence where Anderson was staying.

According to Douglas County Attorney Chris Karpan, at the trial, Tisha Keller, the owner of the iguana, testified that her aunt, Jennifer Larson, said she wouldn't give the iguana back unless Keller paid her the $200 Larson claimed Keller owed.

Keller also testified that Larson said she was going to leave the iguana's heat lamp off until she got paid, according to Karpan.

Burnside, Tyler Galstad and Briant Weber all testified that they went to the residence where the iguana was at, 1102 Hawthorne, in an attempt to retrieve the pet. When they grabbed the iguana and the fish tank it was in and turned to leave, Anderson was holding a 12-inch kitchen knife, blocking the door, according to the county attorney.

The three men testified that when Anderson lunged at Burnside with the knife, Burnside threw the fish tank toward Anderson and the two grappled.

During this exchange, Burnside was stabbed in the chest. The knife punctured a lung and Burnside was flown to the Hennepin County Medical Center for treatment, where he then recovered from his wounds.

A DNA expert from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension testified that the blood on the knife matched the DNA from Burnside.

The defense claimed that Anderson acted in self-defense when he stabbed Burnside, but the jury rejected that argument, according to Karpan, likely because the three young men never threatened or attacked Anderson.

"Regardless, the use of a knife when the dispute is over a $50 iguana is ridiculously disproportionate," said Karpan. "This was beyond the old adage, 'You don't bring a knife to a fist fight.' I'm glad the jury got it right."