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Two Harbors man pleads guilty to second-degree murder

Raymond Weeks, 42, of Two Harbors avoided potential first-degree murder charges Thursday when he agreed to a plea bargain and admitted his role in the stabbing death of Kevin John Tyman, 54, just before Christmas in 2012. Weeks pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in State District Court in Duluth.

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His co-defendant, Joella Lee Tucker, 32 of Duluth, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree murder last month. Tucker testified at her March 5 plea hearing that she was angry at Tyman, her former landlord, and that Weeks volunteered to help confront him at his apartment. She testified that Weeks stabbed Tyman in the abdomen, causing the liver laceration that led to his death. Weeks’ sentencing is scheduled for May 8 before Judge Shaun Floerke. His friends say that they hope he can now get the help he needs in prison.

“He was a good kid,” recalled Karen Saari, who says she’s known Weeks for years, “but he had a tendency to go with the wrong crowd. He would just jump in and do things…sometimes he didn’t think about the consequences.”

Saari said she went to see Weeks at St. Louis County Jail shortly after his arrest last fall. Weeks appeared behind a glass partition in jail-issued scrubs, with shackles on his hands and ankles. The two had a 30-45 minute visit and Weeks has since sent her some of his drawings, which now decorate a partition at the Waterfront Center in Two Harbors where Saari works as a peer coordinator. Weeks had been a frequent visitor there last summer, making dream catchers and other craft items to raise money for the program.

“He’s a good kid,” Saari repeated, “he’s like one of my own. I want to see the best for him.”

Under the terms of the plea bargain, Weeks faces a 30-year prison sentence, in exchange the St. Louis County Attorney’s office agreed not to bring first-degree murder charges, a conviction that carries a maximum life sentence.

One Lake County woman who knew Tyman expressed relief that her friend’s killer had confessed. Allison Oja worked with Tyman for many years, for a time the two delivered the Duluth News-Tribune to subscribers in the county’s rural areas. She remembered Tyman as generous, hardworking and someone who tried to help people who were less fortunate. She said she was angry last November when Tucker was reported to have accused Tyman of sexually assaulting a woman and her son.

“I am so happy to hear that both people responsible for the death of my friend pled guilty,” she told the Lake County News-Chronicle on Tuesday. “I was not looking forward to seeing his name further dragged through the mud as they tried to make a defense for themselves. This gives me some closure and peace.”

Oja held a fundraiser last year to raise money for a memorial for her friend. Tyman was a “proud Marine,” she said, and her goal was to place the memorial among the Christmas light display at the Minnesota Veteran’s Home in Silver Bay. She’s still raising funds.

Tom Olsen contributed to this story (