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Jury Convicts Burnsville Man in Stabbing of Northfield Musician

A Rice County District Court jury found Christopher James Schuenke guilty of stabbing a musician outside a Northfield pub early on the morning of Jan. 1.

A Burnsville man has been found guilty of stabbing a musician outside a Northfield pub early on the morning of Jan. 1, 2012.

Christopher James Schuenke, 36, was found guilty by a Rice County District Court jury of two counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. Each felony count carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine.

Schuenke was acquitted of a more serious charge of first-degree assault resulting in great bodily harm and a charge of third-degree assault.

The victim told police that he was leaving a Northfield pub early New Year’s Day, carrying his musical equipment through a narrow walkway. He said he squeezed past a stranger who was blocking his way and headed toward his car.

The man said he put his equipment in the car, turned around and found the stranger, later identified as Schuenke, standing in front of him. Schuenke got into the victim’s face and said, “You’re the guy who pushed me, huh? Remember me?”

The victim said he pushed Schuenke away and turned back toward his car. When he turned around, Schuenke was standing 3 feet away, holding a knife with a 3-inch blade at chest level. The victim said he was stunned; he paused, then decided he had no escape route other than to “go through” Schuenke, so he pushed toward him.

The two men began to struggle, falling on the slushy, slippery pavement with Schuenke on top of the victim, who said he suddenly felt a cut on his ear and then was stabbed in the abdomen.

The victim’s wife said she came out of the pub shortly afterward and saw the fight in progress, with a man holding Schuenke in a chokehold and yelling, “Call the police!”

A witness told police that he left the pub at about 1:30 a.m. and saw Schuenke and the victim shouting at each other, with Schuenke holding a knife. The witness shouted a warning about the knife and threw his cell phone at Schuenke, which broke into pieces on the ground; Schuenke then grabbed the witness, and the two men struggled before the witness was able to stand up and run away.

The witness suffered a cut on his right hand, and found two puncture marks in his jacket the next morning.

Another witness told police that he heard Schuenke in the bar earlier, talking about “punks” in Northfield and saying he wanted to stab someone about 10 minutes before the altercation outside.

Doctors later said that the initial victim suffered a stab wound in the lower left side of his abdomen which penetrated 6 centimeters. He was unable to work for two weeks after the incident, during which time he needed help standing up, getting dressed and getting in and out of a car. He told police that he “walked like an old man” and that he has a dimple in his abdomen where he was stabbed.

Rice County District Court Judge John T. Cajacob ordered a presentence investigation after the verdict last week and released Schuenke on his promise to make all future court appearances. Sentencing is set for Jan. 10.

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