Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Infant’s uncle faces charges in fire death

Jesse Lee Bonacci-Koski remains in county jail on $240,000 bond

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 8/9/17

TOWER— County Attorney Mark Rubin called the circumstances behind last week’s house fire that claimed the life of 11-month-old Bentley Joe Lewis Koski “unbelievably tragic,” and said he will …

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Infant’s uncle faces charges in fire death

Jesse Lee Bonacci-Koski remains in county jail on $240,000 bond

Posted

TOWER— County Attorney Mark Rubin called the circumstances behind last week’s house fire that claimed the life of 11-month-old Bentley Joe Lewis Koski “unbelievably tragic,” and said he will personally handle the prosecution of Jesse Lee Bonacci-Koski, who St. Louis County deputies arrested last week on multiple felonies stemming from the incident.

Bonacci-Koski, 24, remains in the St. Louis County Jail on $240,000 bond. He faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, auto theft, and possession of methamphetamine.

Firefighters found the body of the infant in an upstairs crib at 813 North Third Street, in Tower, about 8:45 a.m. on Aug. 2. According to the criminal complaint, the parents of the child had left him in the care of Bonacci-Koski overnight, but Bonacci-Koski had left the child alone in the early morning hours to buy drugs, when the fire apparently broke out. The cause of the fire remains undetermined, although arson is not suspected at this point.

According to the complaint, Bonacci-Koski had returned to the residence only to find firefighters and law enforcement at the scene, which prompted him to hide out in a car in the parking lot of Benchwarmer’s Bar and Grill. The owner of the car reported a suspicious person to police about 11:25 that morning and said the individual was “very muddy” and left behind a dog later determined to belong to the infant’s parents, Krista Swanson and Cody Koski.

After his discovery, Bonacci-Koski left the parking lot. But he soon found a Jeep Cherokee with the keys inside and he stole the vehicle in an unsuccessful effort to flee. He made it as far as Pike Township before driving the vehicle into the ditch along Hwy. 169. Sheriff’s deputies responded to the vehicle report and later took Bonacci-Koski into custody after locating him in the woods. Bonacci-Koski, who was the infant’s uncle, was wanted on multiple felony warrants at the time of his arrest. He was previously convicted for second degree assault, fifth degree assault, fifth degree drug possession, check forgery, and fleeing from police.

An initial examination by the St. Louis County medical examiner has revealed that the infant had soot in his esophagus, stomach, and upper and lower airways, suggesting he most likely died due to smoke inhalation. An official ruling by the medical examiner was not yet available.

Bonacci-Koski faced arraignment on the charges on Monday. During that hearing, Rubin said he would seek a stiffer penalty than is typical under the state’s sentencing guidelines, due to the vulnerable nature of the victim.

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