Murder suspect makes first appearance in court

{p class=”p1”}Adam Christopher Awender, 38, has been charged with murder in Richland County District Court.{/p}

Adam Christopher Awender, 38, made his initial appearance before Richland County District Court Thursday, March 28.

The Wahpeton man is charged with one count of murder. Murder is a class AA felony-level crime.

Through an investigation conducted by the Wahpeton Police Department, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Richland County Sheriff’s Office, Awender is accused of intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another human being.

On Monday, March 25, law enforcement responded to a residence at 815 Center St. S., an apartment in the city of Wahpeton, on report of a stabbing that had taken place.

Billy Joe Phillips, the victim of the stabbing, was pronounced dead after medical personnel arrived, court documents state.

“The victim had a severe stab wound to his leg and a stab wound to his chest,” documents continue.

Law enforcement’s investigation, including interviewing of witnesses, led them to Awender as a suspect.

“It was believed that both the defendant and Billy Joe Phillips were in a romantic relationship with a female that lived at this residence with Billy Joe Phillips,” documents continue.

Awender allegedly arrived to the apartment with a knife, having it in his hand when he was led into the residence. Shortly after Awender’s arrival, Philips was stabbed and Awender allegedly fled.

Witnesses identified Awender as the person that stabbed Phillips.

“When law enforcement was searching for the defendant, his vehicle was found,” documents continue. “Officers observed what appeared to be blood on both the passenger and driver side front interior door handles.”

A jacket with blood was also allegedly discovered during a search of Awender’s home, documents continue. It was taken as evidence.

“The defendant was later arrested and interrogated and he admitted stabbing Billy Joe Philips, but said it was accidental. He told law enforcement that he threw the knife in a dumpster and washed his clothes,” documents continued.

A preliminary autopsy report found the cause of death was a stab wound to the chest and the manner of death was homicide.

Awender appeared before the court for an initial appearance and bond hearing. Judge Bradley Cruff presides.

Richland County State’s Attorney Megan Kummer and Assistant State’s Attorney Casey Moen are listed as representing the state of North Dakota. Court documents do not currently name an attorney for Awender.

The maximum penalty for a class AA felony is life imprisonment without parole.

A preliminary hearing for the charge has not yet been scheduled.

Awender is currently confined in the Richland County Jail.

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