A man was convicted Thursday of first-degree premeditated murder for the beheading of his longtime girlfriend in front of onlookers in Shakopee nearly two years ago.
Alexis Saborit, 44, of Shakopee first struck America M. Thayer, 56, with an 8-pound dumbbell and then decapitated her with a machete at the intersection of 4th Avenue and Spencer Street on the afternoon of July 28, 2021.
Scott County District Judge Caroline Lennon wrote in the filing of her verdict from the bench that "the court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that [the] defendant acted with premeditation."
Lennon pointed to Saborit's "decision to put down the dumbbell and use the machete is evidence of a deliberate mental thought process."
"After the murder," she said, "the defendant's actions in fleeing the scene, disposing of the murder weapon and other evidence in separate locations, and changing his clothing show the defendant's consciousness of guilt."
County Attorney Ron Hocevar told the Star Tribune after the verdict that "I am pleased with the judge's order." It carries a presumed sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
However, while Saborit was found earlier to be mentally competent to stand trial, the defense has another opportunity at a hearing June 1 to claim otherwise and "plead mental illness," Hocevar said.
"They have the right to proceed with the mental illness phase of the case," he said.
First-degree murder convictions in Minnesota include the right to bypass the state Court of Appeals and take any challenge directly to the state Supreme Court.
Defense attorney Michelle McLean did not respond to requests for comment.
"My mom never deserved to have this happen in the first place," Thayer's son, 42-year-old Charles Thayer, said a few hours after the verdict. "This monster deserves to be put away for life."
The judge's written verdict included Saborit's account to police that afternoon after his arrest.
"The only thing she kept saying to me is that she wanted to get rid of me," he said through a Spanish interpreter. "I was really mad at that moment."
Asked whether he killed Thayer, Saborit said, "It was in self-defense." He said she had been trying to kill him by poisoning and other means.
In her closing argument filed in late March, McLean pushed back against a first-degree murder conviction.
"Given how the action played out, this was a crime of opportunity," she wrote. "He didn't plan or prepare to kill Thayer in advance. It simply happened. No appreciable amount of time passed before the formation of intent and carrying out of the act."
According to the criminal complaint and other court records:
Police found Thayer's body on the ground next to her bloodied car; the vehicle's doors wereopen on both sides. A sheath for a machete-style knife lay in a nearby yard. A knife, shirt and bloody shoes were found in a recycling bin a few blocks away.
A witness a few cars behind Thayer's said they saw Saborit behind the wheel making a hitting motion before throwing an object into a yard. The witness said Saborit dragged something that looked like a body out of the car.
Another witness recorded video that appeared to show Saborit pull Thayer from the car onto the street and then pick up her head by the hair.
Saborit was arrested about 1 ½ miles from the scene near the Travelodge, where he was staying.
At the time of the attack, Saborit had a court hearing in Scott County on charges of setting fire to the couple's apartment during a confrontation with police in Shakopee.
According to the charges, officers confronted Saborit on Nov. 9, 2020, after he had been at the Pullman Club and was smashing car windows outside with a baseball bat.
At one point during that standoff with police, he brandished a machete, which he ultimately threw to the ground.
Saborit told police he and Thayer were driving to the court appearance when she told him she wanted to end their relationship.
Thayer and Saborit had been in a tumultuous relationship over 12 years . His criminal history in Minnesota includes a domestic assault conviction for attacking Thayer in 2017 and pinning her to the ground because he thought she had talked to another man at a bar.
Friends said Thayer emigrated from Cuba and told them she attended high school in Minnetonka. Besides her son, who lives in the state, she had a sister in the southern United States.