Man bound for prison after knife attack on Hudson man
Robert D. Close, 24, will spend the next decade behind bars because of an incident last May when he stabbed a Hudson man 11 times on the pedestrian bridge behind Veterans Park in River Falls.
Close is from River Falls but lives in Woodville. He was sentenced Feb. 24 in Pierce County Circuit Court after pleading guilty to aggravated battery. An attempted homicide charge was dropped as part of an earlier plea deal.
In handing out the sentence, Pepin Circuit Court Judge James Duvall explained that the gravity of Close's offense and protecting the public outweighed Close's claim that he deserved another chance.
"You were on probation or extended supervision seven times, and every single one was revoked," Duvall said. "This is definitely a prison case, and a short period isn't sufficient. A longer period is more appropriate."
According to the criminal complaint, Close and the victim, Ronald J. Drexl, nearly fought at The Library Bar in River Falls just before it closed.
The exchange appears related to something Close insinuated about Drexl's wife. Drexl and his wife were at the bar with another River Falls couple.
After leaving the bar, Close waited for the two couples as they crossed Main Street and approached Veterans Park. Drexl got ahead of the three other people in his party, made eye contact with Close and met him near the center of the footbridge.
The two fought quickly, then Close ran west across the bridge and disappeared while Drexl walked east back toward Main Street.
Drexl didn't realize he was stabbed until he said he wasn't feeling or breathing well and was bleeding.
He took off his shirt and found "multiple stab wounds on his stomach, chest area ... and was bleeding really badly."
A nearly full courtroom sat through last week's hearing in which both sides were very passionate in describing their side of the case.
"There were significant, numerous, aggravating factors," said Assistant County District Attorney Bill Thorie. "He came to the Library Bar, armed with a knife and 'looking to kick someone's a--.'
"Also, there was severity of the injury. The victim was severely injured as he was stabbed multiple times. Not all were life-threatening, but some were."
Thorie's other main point was that Close was on supervision from two past felonies while committing another offense. Thorie also questioned Close's remorse about the accident.
"He shows no remorse," he said. "The apology letter talks more about his religious conversions ... The victim's family will never be the same."
Close's attorney, Kerry Kelm, spent most of her time saying Close was acting in self-defense.
"It started as a bar fight, but they went to the park with every intention to fight," Kelm said. "(Close) did what he thought was necessary at the time."
Kelm also questioned why the other three people with Drexl didn't ask for help or call 911.
"That's because he didn't know he was stabbed because his adrenaline was high from beating on Mr. Close," she said.
Kelm also tried to discredit another of Thorie's arguments asserting that if Drexl had arrived later at Regions Hospital, he would have died. She called that speculative.
Kelm also tried to defend the use of the knife, calling it "a decorative knife that most men carry."
Close also addressed the court, saying he made a lot of stupid choices that night last May and knowing what he did was wrong.
While Duvall congratulated Close on the steps he was taking to turn himself around, he also had a few questions for him about that night.
"When you walked into the bar that night, you had a 40-year felony term hanging over your head," Judge Duvall said. "And you were there to sell drugs and you're armed with a knife.
"Did you stay and render aid to the victim? No. Did you call the hospital? No. Did you go to the police station? No. You ran away and hid the evidence. You left the victim and stabbed him 11 times. That is currently an aggravating factor."
Duvall also highlighted Close's history, which included pleading guilty to second-degree sexual assault of a child in 2005.
"The public needs to be protected," Duvall said to Close. "You need to show us you've changed."
After his prison sentence is completed, Close will be on extended supervision. Some of the terms include no contact with Drexl or his family, no possession of alcohol, controlled substances or firearms.