In this photo provided by the Blue Earth County District Court via the Mankato Free Press, Joel Marvin Munt is shown in a booking mug.
ST. PETER, Minn. — A Minnesota man who repeatedly accused his ex-wife of child abuse rammed her car into a tree and shot her to death in front of their three young children before fleeing in a vehicle belonging to good Samaritans who responded to the crash, prosecutors said Tuesday.
A sheriff’s deputy who caught up with Joel Marvin Munt found the children crying inside the stolen SUV and heard one say “Daddy killed Mommy,” according to a criminal complaint charging Munt with second-degree murder in death of his ex-wife, Svetlana Vladimirovna Munt, 32, of Mankato.
Joel Munt, 33, of Burnsville, also was charged with five other felonies related to the crash and vehicle theft. Bail was set at $600,000 during his first court appearance Tuesday.
Public defender Krista Jass told The Associated Press that Munt suffered from “untreated depression” after his 2009 divorce. Jassa said he does not have a criminal record beyond some minor traffic offenses, but declined to comment further, saying she was gathering more information about the weekend incident.
Authorities allege Munt rammed his Chevrolet Suburban SUV into the driver’s side door of his ex-wife’s car Sunday morning — pinning it against a tree at the Rasmussen Woods Nature Area in Mankato — then shot the woman he’d gone to Russia to marry in 1998 after meeting through an online singles agency. A medical examiner determined she was shot seven times.
Prosecutors believe the three children, ages 4, 5, and 7, saw it all.
“I can only assume that they did,” said Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Patrick McDermott. “They were in the car when she was shot.” They are now in protective custody.
One witness told police that when he went toward the scene, he saw a man outside the car who pointed a large pistol at him and told him to leave. The witness called 911 and saw another SUV drive up. The couple in the second SUV said the man at the crash scene stole their vehicle at gunpoint, but let them unload their three children first, the complaint said.
The sheriff’s deputy pulled over the stolen SUV a short time later. Munt surrendered peacefully, telling a deputy, “Sorry for causing you this trouble,” according to the complaint.
One boy in the vehicle had a bloody face with glass embedded in it — Munt told a witness the child was cut when a car window exploded, according to the complaint. A pistol and an empty magazine where found on the driver’s side floor.
Munt told the officers who arrested him, “If you people had done your job protecting my daughter from her mother, she wouldn’t have to go through this,” the complaint said.
Documents filed in the divorce proceeding show Sventlana Munt was born and raised in Russia. She said she met Joel Munt through a singles agency — the documents do not say when — and they e-mailed back-and-forth with the help of a translator. He visited a few times.