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Charges: Rural Cloquet man admitted to killing friend, but wouldn't say why

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DULUTH, Minn. — A highly intoxicated rural Cloquet man admitted to fatally shooting his friend early Saturday but would not elaborate on his reason for doing so, according to charges filed Thursday.

Thomas Allen Micklewright, 44, was arraigned in State District Court in Duluth on a charge of unintentional second-degree murder in the death of 65-year-old James Arthur Couture. The shooting occurred inside Micklewright's home, 3521 Brevator Road, on the Fond du Lac Reservation northwest of Cloquet.

According to a criminal complaint, Micklewright and his wife were hosting Couture and his wife that night. Both couples had been drinking before Micklewright's wife called 911 around 5 a.m. to report the shooting. Micklewright allegedly admitted during the course of that call that he intentionally shot Couture with a .40-caliber pistol but would not further describe the circumstances, the complaint said.

When law enforcement arrived at the residence, they found Couture in the kitchen, where he was pronounced dead. No weapons were found on his person or in the vicinity, according to the complaint. Both wives were believed to be asleep at the time of the shooting, the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office previously reported.

Micklewright was detained without incident at the scene. Authorities said a preliminary breath-test administered at about 11 a.m. — approximately six hours after the shooting — placed his blood-alcohol concentration at .20, which is 2.5 times the legal limit for driving.

At the arraignment, St. Louis County prosecutor Korey Horn requested Micklewright's bail be set at $150,000.

"The allegations in this case involve the violent death of a member of this community, and the information possessed by the state at this time evinces defendant's lethal judgment while under the influence of alcohol," Horn wrote in a letter to the court.

Public defender Natasha VanLieshout sought a referral to supervised release or a lower bail figure. She said Micklewright is a lifelong resident of the area and has no criminal history outside of traffic violations.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Dale Harris settled on $125,000, citing public safety concerns in denying supervised release.

The judge also denied Micklewright's application for the ongoing services of the public defender's office, concluding he makes too much money to qualify. Micklewright and his wife have owned and operated a landscaping business for the past 13 years, VanLieshout said.

While Micklewright appeared in court, funeral services were being held for Couture in Cloquet. A Brookston resident, he was a Fond du Lac member who worked a number of jobs on the reservation, according to his obituary. He was survived by his wife, six children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Micklewright is scheduled to be back in court on Dec. 3.