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Would-be 'Dexter' killer's appeal rejected 10 years after he sought heart transplant

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Andrew Busskohl, the Woodbury man who authorities say would have carried out a murder if a friend hadn't intervened, lost his appeal to a court ruling that placed him indefinitely at a state mental hospital.

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A Minnesota appeals court decided Dec. 5 not to overturn a lower court's ruling after Busskohl argued he did not meet statutory criteria for civil commitment and that his placement at the secure hospital was inappropriate.

Busskohl was sent to the state hospital June 3, 2011, after Washington County prosecutors petitioned the court to have him committed as mentally ill and dangerous.

In his appeal of the ruling, Busskohl offered several challenges to legal issues since he was first arrested in August 2008.

Among the arguments was a challenge to the determination that he presents a danger to the public. Busskohl argued that the incident didn't represent an "overt act" toward causing a person serious physical harm. He cited case law that he said revealed previous findings of "overt acts" involving actual injuries or direct threats to injure.

"We are not persuaded," Appeals Court Judge Michelle Larkin opined for the three-judge panel in response to the claim, noting that "under the plain language of the statute, actual serious physical harm is not required."

The panel also rejected Busskohl's claim that evidence didn't support the district court's determination that he poses a "substantial likelihood" to hurt himself or others.

As to Busskohl's argument that being placed in the secure mental hospital was inappropriate, the appeals court ruled in favor of the district court's decision that the facility was the proper place for him, given his mental condition.

Violent urges

Busskohl was arrested in August 2008 after a friend tipped off authorities that he was about to kill a Woodbury resident.

When police arrested the 19-year-old, they discovered what prosecutors called a "murder kit" in his car containing burglary tools, latex gloves, shoe covers, a scalpel and plans to burglarize a randomly selected Woodbury man's home and slit his throat while he slept.

The friend said Busskohl's plan was to cut out the victim's heart or remove his eyelids to gain a reputation as a serial killer. Busskohl later told a therapist that he hoped to become "anonymous and famous," according to court documents.

Busskohl first desired to kill as a vigilante molded from the character in the "Dexter" television program, court documents state. Busskohl changed his approach, however, after difficulty finding a suitable victim, 10th District Court Judge Gregory Galler noted this year in the order that sent him to the secure hospital.

"It is undisputed that Busskohl devised a detailed plan to kill a stranger and took several steps to carry out the plan," according to the appeals court opinion. "He selected the date for the murder. He assembled a 'murder kit.'

Andrew Busskohl, the Woodbury man who authorities say would have carried out a murder if a friend hadn't intervened, lost his appeal to a court ruling that placed him indefinitely at a state mental hospital.

A Minnesota appeals court decided Dec. 5 not to overturn a lower court's ruling after Busskohl argued he did not meet statutory criteria for civil commitment and that his placement at the secure hospital was inappropriate.

Busskohl was sent to the state hospital June 3, 2011, after Washington County prosecutors petitioned the court to have him committed as mentally ill and dangerous.

In his appeal of the ruling, Busskohl offered several challenges to legal issues since he was first arrested in August 2008.

Among the arguments was a challenge to the determination that he presents a danger to the public. Busskohl argued that the incident didn't represent an "overt act" toward causing a person serious physical harm. He cited case law that he said revealed previous findings of "overt acts" involving actual injuries or direct threats to injure.

"We are not persuaded," Appeals Court Judge Michelle Larkin opined for the three-judge panel in response to the claim, noting that "under the plain language of the statute, actual serious physical harm is not required."

The panel also rejected Busskohl's claim that evidence didn't support the district court's determination that he poses a "substantial likelihood" to hurt himself or others.

As to Busskohl's argument that being placed in the secure mental hospital was inappropriate, the appeals court ruled in favor of the district court's decision that the facility was the proper place for him, given his mental condition.

Violent urges

Busskohl was arrested in August 2008 after a friend tipped off authorities that he was about to kill a Woodbury resident.

When police arrested the 19-year-old, they discovered what prosecutors called a "murder kit" in his car containing burglary tools, latex gloves, shoe covers, a scalpel and plans to burglarize a randomly selected Woodbury man's home and slit his throat while he slept.

The friend said Busskohl's plan was to cut out the victim's heart or remove his eyelids to gain a reputation as a serial killer. Busskohl later told a therapist that he hoped to become "anonymous and famous," according to court documents.

Busskohl first desired to kill as a vigilante molded from the character in the "Dexter" television program, court documents state. Busskohl changed his approach, however, after difficulty finding a suitable victim, 10th District Court Judge Gregory Galler noted this year in the order that sent him to the secure hospital.

"It is undisputed that Busskohl devised a detailed plan to kill a stranger and took several steps to carry out the plan," according to the appeals court opinion. "He selected the date for the murder. He assembled a 'murder kit.'

"And he broke the victim's window - as planned - in order to access the victim's home on the night of the anticipated murder."

Since serving jail time in the 2008 case, Busskohl kept fantasizing about committing murder, according to the initial order calling for his commitment. He also continued to feed what Galler called "a very odd and unhealthy fixation on knives" during that time.

The appeals court's opinion was handed down exactly one decade after Busskohl was struggling with a very different challenge in his life.

'Fuzz' needed transplant

A story in the Dec. 5, 2001, edition of the Woodbury Bulletin chronicled Busskohl's efforts to become a heart transplant recipient. Known by the nickname "Fuzz," the then- 12-year-old Busskohl was in search of the transplant after heart surgery left him with a rare side effect that stiffened his heart.

While his classmates at Bailey Elementary rallied around his cause, raising money for the American Heart Association, Busskohl remained at a Twin Cities hospital, where he had become a favorite patient among staff.

"I like to make people smile," he told the Bulletin at the time.

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Mike Longaecker
Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
(715) 426-1072
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