by LAURA HAYES
A man accused of murdering his girlfriend may face a heightened sentence after prosecutors allege he attempted to burn her body.
In recent court documents, prosecutors allege that Kyle Benjamin Allers, 24, of Winona — the man currently accused of killing his girlfriend, Tasha Lynn Hanson, 24 — planned on lighting her body on fire.
In late November, Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman filed a motion stating her office would seek an aggravated sentence if Allers is convicted. Currently, he is in custody on charges of murder in the first degree (pattern of domestic abuse), two counts of murder in the second degree, and manslaughter in the first degree (assault). According to the motion, “The defendant [Allers] placed and concealed the deceased’s body in a metal container in or near a farm field in rural Winona County. [Allers] discussed destroying the deceased’s body and vehicle by lighting them on fire. A gas can was found near the metal container. In addition, there is evidence that the victim did not die immediately, but lived for a portion of time after her initial injuries.” A preliminary autopsy reported that Hanson was murdered by blunt force trauma to the head and strangulation.
Last spring, Winona County deputies reported that Hanson’s body was found in woods east of Lewiston just after midnight on May 14. That prior evening, one of Allers’ family members called law enforcement, concerned that Allers had killed Hanson. At the time, Winona County Sheriff Ron Ganrude called the report “crucial” and said that if not for the tip, law enforcement would not likely have discovered her remains for a long time.
According to the complaint, Allers visited the family member on May 12 and said that he got into a fight with Hanson. The family member described him as “shaky” and said that Allers asked for help getting rid of the body, saying that “She’s gone … She’s gone forever,” when the family member asked Allers if he killed Hanson, according to the complaint.
At the time, Allers was charged with murder in the second degree and held in custody in lieu of a $1 million bail. The bail was later raised to $5 million without conditions in September after a grand jury indicted Allers on the remaining charges.
In the motion, Sonneman wrote, “The defendant [Allers] treated his victim with particular cruelty for which the individual offender should be held responsible.” According to state law, the court could depart from sentencing guidelines for several reasons — including when a victim has been treated with particular cruelty.
Sonneman cited State v. Hicks (2015) in which defendant Mo Savoy Hicks appealed the case after being found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder and given an aggravated sentence. The victim, Judy Rush, was reported missing in August 2007. Officers went to Rush’s apartment and found blood stains. Almost three years after her disappearance, remains later identified as Rush were found in a shallow grave in a park in Brooklyn Park, Minn. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force cranial injury.
After Hicks was found guilty in 2014, he later appealed the conviction and the sentencing. “We conclude that the concealment of a homicide victim’s body, in and of itself, may be an aggravating factor under the sentencing guidelines that supports an upward durational sentencing departure,” the 2015 appellate court wrote and affirmed the sentence.
Alters is scheduled to appear in court next on February 23.