CHANHASSEN, Minn. — A Minnesota man has been indicted in the murder of his older sister, whom deputies found dead amid hundreds of spent shell casings.
Joseph Thomas Ness, 21, of Chanhassen, was indicted last week on a charge of first-degree murder in the May 8 death of Noelle Ness, who was found dead in her bedroom at the family’s home.
Noelle Ness, 25, had been shot a total of 18 times. The motive for the crime, which took place the day before Mother’s Day, is unknown.
“The investigation is ongoing and trying to determine the motive is part of the investigation,” Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud told the Minneapolis Star Tribune last week.
Ness was originally charged with second-degree murder, but a grand jury on Aug. 10 returned an indictment for premeditated murder in the first degree, according to Carver County Attorney Mark Metz.
He was initially booked into the Carver County Jail with bail set at $1 million. He is now being held in lieu of $6 million bond, jail records show.
Noelle Ness was an avid competitive dancer who participated in competitions for years with Dance With Us America. Robert Foster, owner of The Fosters Dance, mourned her death on social media in May.
He described Noelle Ness as a “sweet, innocent soul.”
“I loved seeing your constant improvement on the dance floor with Gene Bersten, and I enjoyed the time we had dancing together,” Foster wrote. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around what happened. Dance in peace, Noelle.”
‘I just killed my sister’
Carver County sheriff’s deputies were called around 2:20 p.m. May 8 to the Ness home, located in the 3700 block of Landings Drive on Lake Minnewashta. The initial call was in response to a fire alarm at the house.
While en route, the deputies received word of a shooting at the home, Kamerud said in a news release.
According to a probable cause affidavit, the 911 call about the shooting was placed by a neighbor, from whom the siblings’ mother had sought help. Both Joey and Noelle Ness still lived at home with their parents, Paul and Alyssa Ness.
Deputy Dave Murphy, the investigator who penned the affidavit, wrote that Alyssa Ness ran to the neighbor’s nearby home after gunfire broke out at their house.
“Joey shot and killed Noelle,” she reportedly told the neighbor.
As deputies responded to the Ness home, one stopped at the neighbor’s home to speak with Alyssa Ness. She told the deputy her son had killed his sister and that there were multiple weapons in their home.
The distraught mother said she didn’t know if her son was still in the house. When deputies entered the home, Joey Ness was gone.
Around 3:05 p.m., a second neighbor who lives about a half-mile from the Ness home called 911 to report that a man had approached her from a public trail that bordered her property.
It was Joey Ness.
“Please help me. I need your help. I need you to call the police for me. I just killed my sister,” Ness told the neighbor, according to the affidavit. “I want to surrender peacefully. I am unarmed.”
The woman, who was “startled by the encounter,” did as Ness asked and called for help. Deputies went to the woman’s home, where they took Ness into custody without incident.
Read the initial criminal complaint filed against Joey Ness below.
Investigators who went into the Ness home were stunned by what they found.
“Upon entering, deputies noted hundreds of spent rifle casings, bullet holes in walls and many windows shattered by gunfire,” Murphy wrote.
Paramedics who examined Noelle Ness pronounced her dead at the scene.
The preliminary investigation indicated that Joey Ness had shot at his sister, in part, from his own bedroom across the hall from her room. Crime scene analysis indicated that those rounds traveled in a horizontal manner, the affidavit states.
“Next, it appears Noelle may have been shot at a closer range, as rounds traveled vertically through her bed, and some of her wounds had stippling,” Murphy wrote.
Stippling, or tattooing, is a pattern of dots burning gunpowder leaves on the skin around a bullet wound when a gun is fired close to the victim’s body.
A total of 12 spent rifle shell casings were found near Noelle Ness’ bed.
Detectives who executed a subsequent search warrant found a total of six rifles, including AR-15 and AK-47 variants, ammunition and high-capacity drum magazines in the home. The affidavit did not specify who in the family they belonged to.
Joey Ness is due back in court in October.
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