Escaped NERCC inmate facing attempted murder charge

Posted on November 16, 2020 at 4:13 pm

By: Tom Olsen

An inmate who escaped from the Northeast Regional Corrections Center on Friday has a history of domestic violence and is currently facing an attempted murder charge.

Keith Cochise Bellanger, 33, of Duluth, was being transferred to the secure wing of the Saginaw facility when he fled on foot around 4 p.m. Friday, the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office reported. An “extensive manhunt” commenced, but authorities were unable to catch up with Bellanger.

His whereabouts remained unknown Monday, and a warrant has been filed in State District Court charging Bellanger with a felony count of escape from custody.

According to court records, Bellanger was at the minimum/medium-security facility to serve a one-year sentence for a probation violation in a domestic assault case. He’s been convicted of multiple offenses, many related to domestic violence or burglary, dating back to 2006, and was due to appear in court Monday on a number of pending charges.

Bellanger was charged in May with first-degree burglary, stalking, harassment, threats of violence and violating a protection order after a Central Hillside incident in which he allegedly kicked in a door and assaulted his ex-girlfriend. St. Louis County prosecutors earlier this month added a charge of attempted second-degree murder in the case.

According to the criminal complaint, Bellanger arrived uninvited at the woman’s residence May 8 and began pounding on the door, demanding to be let in. He eventually forced his way in and approached the victim, who had retreated to her bedroom and was video-chatting with her sister.

Bellanger allegedly grabbed the woman’s phone and climbed on top of her, telling her she’d never see her children again. The complaint states that he strangled the woman and elbowed her in the face, also punching her several times and slamming her face into the wall, according to the complaint.

The victim reported that she begged for Bellanger to stop, to which he responded, “You should have thought about that before,” and strangled her a second time. As the assault continued, Bellanger allegedly told the victim: “Say your last words,” “you’re never leaving this apartment,” and “I’m going to prison anyway, I might as well kill you.”

The women’s four minor children were in the apartment at the time of the attack, authorities said. It stopped only when Duluth police arrived on scene after being summoned by the victim’s sister, who reported hearing Bellanger’s threats and screaming on the video call.

When police arrived, Bellanger allegedly “threatened to shoot them, drop grenades on them and said none of them were going home that day,” according to the complaint.

Police were called to the same residence March 8, when Bellanger allegedly arrived uninvited and began yelling at the victim. According to court records, the woman told police that she asked Bellanger to leave, but he pushed her down on a couch several times.

The victim said he then began strangling her and pushed her against the kitchen floor. She was eventually able to get away and retrieve her cellphone to call 911, according to the complaint.

Bellanger is charged in that case with two counts of felony domestic assault.

Records show that he pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge in February after another incident involving the same victim. In that case, police were called to the woman’s downtown apartment after she unsuccessfully tried to get Bellanger to leave.

The victim reported that the defendant has pushed her up against the shower with his chest and would not allow her to leave the bathroom. When she attempted to exit, he grabbed her by the shirt, pushing her into the bathtub, according to documents.

The woman was eventually able to escape and call 911. She later told police that Bellanger had hurt her before and that he becomes abusive when he is intoxicated.

Bellanger also was convicted of interfering with an emergency call after a September 2016 incident involving the woman. In that case, the defendant reportedly struck the victim several times and grabbed her phone when she tried calling 911. She reported the incident had occurred after she had told Bellanger to leave.

Records indicate that Bellanger also has a domestic assault conviction from 2010 and burglary convictions from 2006 and 2007, among other offenses.

Bellanger, then 20, made headlines in the 2007 case after he lost all of his clothes during a scuffle with a 69-year-old homeowner who confronted him in the act of burglarizing his West Ninth Street residence.

Posted on November 16, 2020 at 4:13 pm