During an interview with two Douglas County investigators, Jacob Larson repeatedly said he didn’t remember, he didn’t recall, he didn’t know and “I don’t know what else to tell you – I told you everything I know.”
When the two investigators, Sgt. Mike Tvrdik and Brandon Kruse, asked about the whereabouts of his cell phone, Jacob Larson told them he lost it. When they asked what his cell phone number was, he said, “I don’t know my number.”
Jacob Larson, 34, of Kensington, is currently on trial after being accused and charged in the beating of Steven “Beaver” Hlinsky outside the Muddy Boot bar in Forada in May 2018. Hlinsky died eight days later, on May 13.
In the courtroom Friday, Jan. 10, the video of Jacob Larson’s interview, which included audio, was shown to jurors as Kruse took the stand to testify for the state’s attorney, Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson.
Kruse has been a licensed peace officer since 2007 and is currently employed by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and is a commander with the regional drug task force.
Before the video was shown, transcripts of the interview were handed out to the jurors. Some watched and listened while the video played while others followed along with the transcript.
Video shows defendant’s interview
In the video, Jacob Larson was told he was not under arrest and that he was just being questioned about the incident that took place outside the bar.
Jacob Larson told investigators he arrived at the bar that night around 9 or 10 p.m. He said he didn’t remember what time he left but that he left with his friend, Frank Kalina. Jacob Larson said he was at the bar with two other people, Troy Traut and another guy he had never met before. That guy was later identified as Jason Kraft. Jacob Larson said he had been drinking and smoking marijuana.
When asked if there were any problems with anybody at the bar that night, Jacob Larson told the investigators, “Not that I recall.”
At one point during that evening, Jacob Larson said he brought his dog into the bar. He then told the investigators he got escorted out the door, but that he didn’t remember who he was talking to.
He said they – who were later identified as Hlinsky and Scott Roers – smelled smoked and told him to get out of the bar.
“I said, ‘All right,’ and then I got shoved out of the bar,” Jacob Larson said in the interview. “I am not a local drinker and probably had too much, more than I should. I was buzzed.”
Jacob Larson told investigators he honestly didn’t really remember what happened but that he ended up on the street outside the bar and that he saw a guy lying on the street.
“I asked if he was OK and he didn’t answer,” Jacob Larson told the investigators. “Everything happened so fast.”
When asked if the bartender was there at that time, he replied he wasn’t looking and that maybe he was kind of in shock.
“Frank was over by my car and we left,” Jacob Larson said. “It was time to leave so we left.”
At one point in the video, Jacob Larson told the two investigators that nobody was being aggressive that night. Shortly after, he was told that the investigators just wanted him to tell his side of the story. He replied that he could only tell them what he remembered.
After repeatedly being asked questions about that night, Jacob Larson said, “I got pushed out and then when I turned around, a guy was lying on the street. I’m assuming it was the guy I was talking to but I don’t know.”
He was then asked if he did have contact with Hlinsky and Jacob Larson said he didn’t recall what he did.
The video showed one of the investigators sternly speaking to the defendant, telling him “This is your opportunity to tell us what happened. He’s (Hlinsky) got two kids very worried about their dad. Think about if you were one of them. Put yourself in their shoes. They need to know how their dad sustained those injuries.”
Jacob Larson was told that the investigators had video to which he quickly replied back, “No you don’t.” He was then asked if they should get him the video. He said no.
When the video was done playing, Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson didn’t question Kruse, who was in the witness stand the entire time the video played.
Jacob Larson’s attorney, Todd Peterson, asked questions about the video taken from inside the bar and if Kruse had reviewed it. Kruse said he had not seen it recently but watched it after the interview with Jacob Larson. Peterson questioned Kruse’s use of the word “headlock” and after giving Kruse a description of what a headlock was, asked again if he thought it was the right term.
Kruse said what had happened was a variation of a headlock.
He was referring to the video from inside the bar that showed Jacob Larson putting Hlinsky in a “headlock” as he went out the door of the bar.
Peterson asked the judge for Kruse to remain under subpoena in case he was needed to come back and testify later.
Bartender provides testimony
Carrie Goulet was bartending the night of the incident back in May 2018. She testified that she started her shift at 4 p.m. and that Traut, Larson, Kraft and Kalina arrived at the bar around 8:30 or 9 p.m. She said Roers and Hlinsky were also there that night and that Hlinsky got there around 8:30 p.m.
Goulet said she knew Hlinsky.
“He was my friend, my protector, my gambling manager,” Goulet said, noting that she saw him a couple of times a day because he took care of the pull tabs. She explained where people were sitting at the bar and that earlier in the evening, all the men were getting along, talking and two of them – Kraft and Hlinsky – even arm wrestled.
She recalled what they were drinking, stating that Hlinsky was drinking beer, Traut was drinking vodka and Redbull (an energy drink) and that Jacob Larson was drinking Grey Goose (vodka) and cranberry juice.
Goulet said Jacob Larson had won at pull tabs and that because he won more than $100, he had to show her his driver’s license. She pointed to the defendant indicating that it was Jacob Larson.
She was asked if anything out of the ordinary happened and she said that Jacob Larson’s dog came into the bar and that she ended up escorting it out because pets are not allowed in the bar.
Goulet also said that eventually Traut and Hlinsky started exchanging words and that she heard Hlinsky tell Traut he should go home to his wife and kids.
“Troy flipped out and started yelling,” she said. “I told him to get over it.”
Goulet said that when Traut threw a bottle and knocked over a drink, Hlinsky just sat at the bar shaking his head and that he wasn’t trying to have a conflict.
She said that Traut kept asking Hlinsky to go outside, but that Hlinsky just sat there and didn’t go outside. Goulet said she told Traut to “knock it off” and that Traut then left the bar and went outside.
Goulet explained that Jacob Larson took out his marijauna pipe, lit it, “took a rip off of it” and then blew smoke at Roers and Hlinsky. At that point she said Hlinsky told him that it was illegal and time to go. Hlinsky then escorted Jacob Larson to the door.
She said as Jacob Larson and Hlinsky were going toward the door, Hlinsky had no intention of going outside and that when the door opened, she saw Traut reach in and grab him and she said she heard Traut say, “Oh, it’s Beaver.”
Goulet said Hlinsky was forced outside.
After the door shut, Goulet said it took her about eight seconds to get outside and that when she got out there, she saw Hlinsky lying on the ground, bleeding, with his feet facing the door. Because Hlinsky appeared to be injured, she went back inside to call 911. Goulet said Traut came back into the bar and said to “call someone.” She also stated that the defendant did not make a request for anyone to call 911.
She described Hlinsky’s injuries saying that he was bleeding from the nose and ears and that he had a hard time breathing. She said Roers was holding his head and that EMS and law enforcement officers both arrived on the scene.
When Goulet was done answering Chad Larson’s questions, he showed the video. As it played, he paused it at certain spots to ask Goulet to describe what was going on.
The video showed everything that Goelet detailed in her testimony, including Jacob Larson grabbing Hlinsky by the head, dragging him out of the bar and Traut coming back into the bar asking to call someone.
When cross examined by Peterson, Goulet answered “no,” when he asked her if she would tend to take Hlinsky’s side of things. She answered “yes” when asked if Hlinsky drank often but said he didn’t drink everyday. On the night in question, she said he had five beers as that was the amount that was on his tab. She said Hlinsky didn’t show any signs of being intoxicated and that she would have been shocked to learn he was three times the legal limit.
When Peterson asked if Jacob Larson was involved in any of the conflict between Traut and Hlinsky, she said he wasn’t.
Peterson asked numerous questions regarding the timestamp on the video from inside the bar and Goulet repeatedly told him she wasn’t looking at the time. At one point, Peterson had Chad Larson replay parts of the video so that she could look at the time and how the events happened again.
Peterson asked Goulet several more questions about the incidents inside the bar, telling her he didn’t want explanations, but that he just wanted her to answer his questions. When he was done, Chad Larson asked her a couple more questions.
She said she did not see Hlinsky threaten Traut or Jacob Larson and that Hlinsky was being her “bouncer” and just trying to assist her.
Kalina takes the stand
Frank Kalina said he’s known Traut since he was about 16 and that he’s known Jacob Larson since he was about 20. He also said he knows Kraft, but not as well as the other two.
On the day of the incident, Kalina said Traut was over at his house helping with some fencing. Eventually Kraft showed up and then just before they all left to go to the bar, Jacob Larson showed up. Kalina and Jacob Larson drove in one vehicle while Traut and Kraft drove in another.
Prior to going to the bar, Kalina said he had a couple of beers but no one else did. He couldn’t recall what time it was when they got there but said he knows it was getting dark when they all left his house.
When asked what they did at the bar, Kalina said they all drank. He couldn’t remember if they ate but said he smokes and went in and out of the bar for smoke breaks.
He saw Jacob Larson take out his “weed pipe.”
“I knew it wasn’t cool but I wasn’t trying to ruffle any feathers,” said Kalina.
Kalina said even though he was outside when the alleged beating took place, he didn’t observe much. He said he didn’t see anyone hit anyone, that a truck was obscuring his view and that all he saw was Hlinsky’s feet.
He couldn’t remember if Goulet came out of the bar or not. He couldn’t remember much, he said.
Kalina did remember that Jacob Larson said to him, “We’re f****** leaving,” and that he left because that was his ride. After the two left, he said Jacob dropped him off at his house, which is about four or five miles away.
He said they didn’t discuss anything because they got into an argument over the way Jacob Larson was driving.
“He was so drunk, his driving was so terrible,” Kalina said about Jacob Larson.
He also stated he was drunk and didn’t remember what time he got home.
Chad Larson asked him about text messages that were exchanged the next day and Kalina said Jacob Larson was terrible at texting but that one of the texts he received said, “No one touched anyone. You know nothing.”
Photos taken at hospital
Retired Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Ken McDonald was called to the stand to testify about the photos he had taken while Hlinsky was at the St. Cloud Hospital. McDonald wasn’t retired at the time and helped with the case.
The photos were taken to document the extent of the injuries, he said.
McDonald testified that a lab report entered into evidence indicated that blood was found on a tire on a truck outside the bar and another lab report indicated that through DNA testing, it was Hlinsky’s blood.
During Peterson’s questioning, Chad Larson objected several times. He said there was a lack of scope to his line of questioning. Peterson was questioning about intoxicated persons and if McDonald had ever seen people very drunk and if he has interacted with them, along with whether intoxicated people can lose consciousness, speech, balance, coordination, lose control of their bowels and if liquor can impact a person’s judgement.
When Peterson was done with his questions, Chad Larson asked McDonald if alcohol affects people differently and he said yes.
No more witnesses were called to the stand and the trial will resume Monday, Jan. 13 at 9 a.m.