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Charges: Duluth shooting suspects believed they were shorted in drug deal

Joshua Leigh Miller (left) and Katie Margaret Mahnke

The early-morning shooting of a woman in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood last weekend occurred after her assailants believed they’d been shorted in a drug deal the previous day, according to charges filed this week.

Two of the three suspects, Joshua Leigh Miller, 24, of Duluth, and Katie Margaret Mahnke, 40, of Duluth, appeared in court on Friday. They each face three felony charges — Miller for attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and first-degree burglary, and Mahnke for aiding and abetting on all three counts. They were picked up by Duluth police and jailed on Thursday.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $35,000 fine.  

A third suspect appeared to remain at large, according to criminal complaints filed in District Court in Duluth.

The 34-year-old shooting victim has not been identified by authorities; the criminal complaint states that she was transported early Sunday to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center, where she underwent surgery. A bullet was recovered from her arm. Duluth police have said her injuries were not life-threatening.

According to the criminal complaint:

The victim was shot, allegedly by Miller, shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday while she was attempting to flee her home on the 2100 block of West Sixth Street. The victim told authorities she slipped and fell while fleeing her house, looking up to see Miller on her front porch aiming a gun and shooting her “while her hands were up in front of her,” the complaint said.

The suspects fled in a car, while the victim flagged a passing cab driver, who called 911.

The incident was preceded the previous day by the victim meeting Miller, Mahnke and an unidentified adult male in the early morning hours in front of the Tri-Towers Apartments on Second Avenue East in downtown Duluth. The victim was given $80 and went to a nearby address to purchase methamphetamine. The victim told police she thought the amount was small, but kept it to herself, the complaint states. After getting into the car with Miller, Mahnke and the unidentified male, the suspects began to believe they’d been shorted. Miller allegedly asked the victim “what she was going to do about being shorted on the drugs,” and as she was dropped off at her home Mahnke allegedly said they’d be back the next day to get the money.

Shortly after noon Saturday, the victim told police, Mahnke was banging on the victim’s door, demanding money. After the victim said she could get the money later, the suspects came back early Sunday, with Mahnke allegedly banging on the victim’s back door 15 minutes prior to the shooting. The victim opened the door, Mahnke demanded money, and the victim told her to come back later and slammed the door shut, the complaint states. Mahnke allegedly tried to kick in the door, then left and returned a few minutes later with Miller and the third suspect. Miller allegedly kicked in the back door and the victim fled the home through the front door, at which time she was shot.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Dale Harris set bail Friday at $300,000 for Miller and $100,000 for Mahnke. They’re due back in court July 31.