BISMARCK, N.D. | A two-week jury trial for the man charged with murdering a Belle Fourche native last year will begin today.
Morris Pederson, 56, is on trial for allegedly stabbing to death 61-year-old Greg Comes, a geotechnical engineer from Patterson Place in Bismarck who struggled with health problems and alcoholism, at his apartment on April 5, 2016.
Pederson has pleaded not guilty to the Class AA felony charge. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Burleigh County Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer said at a pretrial conference Tuesday morning that she expects to call 29 witnesses over the course of at least a week. She declined to provide a witness list, but information filed in December names police officers, medical examiners, forensic scientists and residents and staff from Patterson Place and Ruth Meiers Hospitality House, where Comes lived.
In order to speed up jury selection today, surveys have been mailed to potential jurors with questions about their backgrounds and knowledge of the case.
Authorities allege Pederson killed Comes by stabbing him in the neck and chest with kitchen knives. At a preliminary hearing in July, Bismarck Police Detective Jeremy Seeklander said police identified Pederson as a suspect after he walked from the apartment complex to the Burleigh County Courthouse in a blood-stained shirt and asked sheriff’s deputies to help Comes, who was dead. The deputies sent him back to the apartment building, where he met detectives, who interviewed and arrested him.
Pederson reported meeting Comes while they were residents at Ruth Meiers, Seeklander said.
At that hearing, Pederson’s former attorney, Travis Finck, suggested that someone else could have killed Comes, as others also may have gone in and out of the apartment.