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Crime News Breaking News

Minnesota Brother, Sister Sentenced For 2020 Murder Of Man Found Shot To Death Over Debt

The Minnesota siblings threatened Karl Henderson's father shortly after murdering their victim over an alleged debt he owed them.

By Jax Miller
Melissa Nicholas Zielinski Pd

A brother and sister from Minnesota were sentenced for their roles in killing a man in his own home.

Nicholas Zielinski, 44, and his sister, Melissa Zielinski, 48, were both sentenced in an Anoka County Court for their role in the 2020 shooting death of Karl Henderson, according to ABC affiliate KSTP Eyewitness News. Henderson, 22, was found face-down in a pool of his own blood shortly after his father encountered the two defendants in his own home.

Henderson’s father told authorities that he’d returned to his Lino Lakes home after a shopping trip shortly before 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 27, 2020, according to a criminal complaint cited by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. KSTP reported the man spotted an SUV in his driveway that he didn’t recognized. The man found two strangers — later identified as the Zielinski’s — in his kitchen.

“Your son stole on me,” Nicholas Zielinski said to the father, according to KSTP. “I’ll take you out, too.”

The man said the pair then left his home; Melissa Zielinski allegedly drove away in the SUV.

The father then found his son dead in his bedroom from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Press. A 9-millimeter handgun discovered at the crime scene did not belong to anyone in the home.

Investigators canvassed the neighborhood and collected video footage of the unfamiliar SUV from several Ring cameras. The Lino Lakes Police Department then appealed for the public’s help in identifying the vehicle’s owner.

Swabs from the murder weapon were also examined by the Midwest Regional Forensic Laboratory, where DNA matching Nicholas Zielinski was found on the grip, reported the Press. He was arrested three days after Henderson’s murder, jail records show.

It wasn’t until authorities searched Nicholas Zielinski’s phone after his arrest that they identified Melissa Zielinski, whose location they were able pinpoint to the Hendersons' Lino Lakes home at the time of the murder.

An accidental photo later discovered on Melissa Zielinski’s phone geotagged her to the neighborhood before she returned to her Sandstone, Minnesota home.

Henderson’s father identified Melissa as one of the strangers he confronted in his kitchen.

As previously reported by the Pioneer Press, Nicholas pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in January, while a jury found Melissa guilty in February on three counts of aiding and abetting a murderer.

Investigators never released what connections the siblings had with Henderson, but Nicholas Zielinski testified during his sister’s trial that they went to the Lino Lakes home to collect an alleged debt from Henderson. He claimed his sister attempted to restrain Henderson, but the victim broke free and reached for Nicholas Zielinski’s’s gun, resulting in a scuffle over the weapon.

He admitted to shooting Henderson. The nature of the debt was never disclosed by law enforcement.

On Wednesday, Anoka County District Court Judge Dyanna Street sentenced Nicholas Zielinski to 19 years in prison, giving him credit for 571 days already served. For her role, Melissa Zielinski was sentenced to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 30 years.

“Karl was a creative, adventurous, and goofy soul who loved animals, traveling, art, music, nature, and exercising,” Henderson’s family wrote in his obituary. “His intelligence was off the charts. He told you the truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not. He did things with passion and purpose and valued real and genuine love. His homebody nature kept him close to the ones he loved. If Karl loved you, he loved you deeply.”