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Mom saw son take last breath, prosecutor says

By Janice Gregorson

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

A prosecutor this morning said Michael Zabawa broke into a rural Waseca home and shot three people, including a 13-year-old boy at close range after the boy fell on the bed next to his mother.

Alec Kruger took his last breaths on the bed as his mother, Hilary Kruger, watched, said Assistant Attorney General William Klumpp, the prosecutor.

The 26-year-old Zabawa faces 12 counts of first- and second-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the deaths of Tracy Kruger, 40, and his son Alec, 13, and the shooting of Hilary Kruger, who survived. He has pleaded not guilty.

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Defense attorney Christine Funk, a Hastings attorney who is a member of the state public defender’s trial team, was expected to open Zabawa’s defense later today to the jury of seven men and eight women. The defense contends that an unknown third party committed the crime.

The trial was moved to Olmsted District Court because of pretrial publicity in the Waseca area.

In his opening statement, Klumpp said Zabawa was not supposed to drink or drive, but he did both the evening of Feb. 2, 2007.

About 3 a.m. Feb. 3, Zabawa ran off the road in front of the Kruger home in rural Waseca, according to Klumpp. In the driveway, he took the keys from Hilary Kruger’s SUV and used the garage-door opener to go into the garage and then the home’s basement, taking a 12-gauge shotgun from Tracy Kruger’s gun cabinet. Zabawa loaded the gun, walked up three flights of stairs and fired eight rounds.

The first shot hit Hilary Kruger, who was asleep in bed with her husband. The slug went through her arm and lodged in her abdomen. She called to her husband, who got up and started to move the mattress to protect them from the gunfire.

A shot went through the mattress, hitting Tracy Kruger and lodging a piece of the spring in his chest. He to fell the floor and was shot again, Klumpp said.

When the shooter started going downstairs, Hilary saw his outline — a tall, thin person holding a long gun. When she saw he was leaving, she called Alec, who was in the bedroom next door. He grabbed the cordless phone in the hallway and started to call 911.

That’s when Zabawa shot him, with the first slug tearing off part of his arm holding the phone, Klumpp said. Zabawa fired and hit Alec three times, the last one at close range after Alec had fallen on the bed next to his mother. She watched him take his last breath, Klumpp said.

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Zabawa left, taking the SUV, and then ditching it and taking a neighbor’s pickup. He drove to his home in Matawan, Klumpp said, and that’s where police found him the next morning.

The 15 jurors selected last week will spend the next two weeks listening to testimony from some 80 witnesses before deciding whether the prosecution has proven its case against Zabawa.

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