Famed Minnesota carver admits murdering wife with totem pole

Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — In a murder his accusers say was fueled by infidelity and deceit, a northern Minnesota artist admitted in court Wednesday that he fatally crushed his wife with a 17-foot-tall totem pole they were carving.

Carl Muggli, 51, pleaded guilty in Koochiching County District Court to killing 61-year-old Linda Muggli in November 2010 at the couple’s home south of International Falls. The husband had tried to convince authorities that the 700-pound pole accidentally fell out of a cradle and onto his wife of 24 years.

The couple’s business website, which still is active, has read since Linda Muggli’s death, “She passed while doing what she loved.”

But about a week later, a tipster told the Sheriff’s Office about Facebook entries between Muggli and a woman in Alabama that were “very intimate in nature,” the complaint read.

A state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent reviewed Muggli’s computer and uncovered Facebook messages between him and the woman that stretched from more than a month before Linda Muggli’s death to a few days afterward.

Muggli is pleading guilty to second-degree unintentional murder. He had been charged with first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree intentional murder. His trial was to begin Monday and be held in Bemidji, Minn., because of pretrial publicity in and around International Falls.

“This whole thing is a tragic occurrence,” said defense attorney Charles Hawkins, who explained that his client chose to plead guilty because “he did not want to put the family, his family or himself through any more misery.”

Carl Muggli remains in the county jail ahead of sentencing on Feb. 4.

Hawkins said his client is facing a sentence of 12 { to 15 years in prison, with the possibility of supervised release for the last third of that time.

According to the criminal complaint, filed in June 2011:

On Nov. 26, 2010, a sheriff’s deputy called to the couple’s garage found Linda Muggli on the floor, bleeding from the mouth but still breathing. She was taken to a hospital, where she died.

Later that day, Carl Muggli told a deputy that a totem pole that the couple had been working on fell out of its cradle and onto his wife.

“I love you with all my being. … I want us together to live our lives as we seek. For I am with you. I am yours. We are one!” Muggli wrote the day before Linda Muggli’s death to the woman he called “Eveningstar.”

He also began sending emails to real estate companies in Texas, looking for a new place to live. On Nov. 30, a few hours after his wife’s memorial service, Muggli sent the woman an online link for property in Palestine, Texas.

A month after Linda Muggli died, sheriff’s deputies and an agent with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension went to the Muggli home in an effort to re-create the circumstances of the death as Carl Muggli had outlined. Each effort failed.

Linda and Carl Muggli were married in 1986. They lived quietly in a log home about 20 miles south of International Falls in the town of Ray.

Via the Internet, they made a name for themselves, carving and selling totem poles to Six Flags Theme Park, Warner Brothers Television and the Princess Diana Memorial Children’s Park in London, according to their website.

Carl Muggli moved to Stockdale, Texas, after his wife’s death.