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2 to be charged with murder, assault

By Janice Gregorson

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Two Chicago-area men were expected to be charged today with murder and assault in connection with the death of a Rochester man found in his apartment on Easter Sunday.

Lenard A. Saunders, 22, and Michael Anthony Gray, 25, were arrested by U.S. Marshals and Minneapolis police in Minneapolis about 6 p.m. Friday.

Jim Martinson, chief deputy with the Olmsted County attorney’s office, said the two were to be arraigned in Olmsted District Court this morning on second-degree felony murder and first-degree assault charges. No decision has been made whether to call a grand jury to consider first-degree murder charges.

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The two men are suspected of assaulting Gale Juma Tom Wani, 44, March 23 at his apartment at 2323 18th Ave. N.W. Wani was found in the bathroom of his lower-level apartment.

Coroner Dr. Eric Pfeifer said Wani died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Police Capt. Brian Winters said theft might be the motive.

An arrest warrant for Saunders was issued on March 31. He was believed to be with a person known only as "Moe." Winters said investigators had reason to believe Saunders and Moe had assaulted Wani, causing his death, and that they had taken property from Wani’s apartment.

A computer taken from Wani’s apartment was found in a vacant upstairs apartment in the same building.

Winters said earlier that a group of people had gained access to that vacant apartment and were using it as a place to "meet and socialize" on the days preceding Wani’s death. In all, about a dozen people had been identified as in that group.

This morning, Winters said there is no indication that Saunders and Gray had established any kind of relationship with Wani. He said the two are believed to have come to Rochester in the days before Wani’s death. He said the two had acquaintances in Rochester and were believed to be staying in the vacant apartment.

Winters said that after the assault on Wani, the two fled the apartment. He said they are believed to have stayed in Rochester another two days before going to the Twin Cities or Chicago.

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Winters said investigators contacted the U.S. Marshals office in Minneapolis for assistance in locating the two men. On Friday, Winters said marshals, with help from Minneapolis, arrested Saunders at a north Minneapolis residence. He was with Gray. Winters said Gray matched the description of "Moe."

Wani, a native of Sudan, had moved to the United States about a decade ago and to Rochester in 2005. He had been married and divorced. He had two children.

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