Prosecutors seek stiff sentence for Minnesota man accused of killing pregnant woman, toddler

Sheldon James Thompson has yet to enter a plea to three murder charges stemming from the deaths of Jackie DeFoe and Kevin Shabaiash Jr.

Sheldon James Thompson
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CARLTON, Minn. — Prosecutors will seek a longer-than-guideline prison term for a Cloquet, Minn., man charged with killing his pregnant girlfriend and her toddler on the Fond du Lac Reservation in March.

Sheldon James Thompson, 33, had five domestic violence-related convictions before he was arrested for the deaths of 27-year-old Jackie DeFoe and her 20-month-old son, Kevin Shabaiash Jr.

DeFoe and the boy were both found dead at their home on March 7, the mother having suffered dozens of stab wounds and the child dying from multiple blunt-force injuries. Thompson had been in a relationship with DeFoe for about five months, periodically staying at the residence, and was the father of her unborn child, according to court filings.

Thompson faces two counts of intentional second-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder of an unborn child, each carrying a maximum of 40 years in prison if convicted.


File: Jackie Defoe
Victoria Smith holds a picture of homicide victims Jackie DeFoe and her son Kevin Shabaiash Jr. at a memorial march on the Fond du Lac Reservation in March 2020. (File / News Tribune)

In a notice to the court, Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Erin Elridge and Carlton County Attorney Lauri Ketola said a prison term up to the maximum would be appropriate, citing seven factors that allegedly make the circumstances more egregious than most second-degree murder cases.

The prosecutors contend the victims were "particularly vulnerable" due to Shabaiash's age and were treated with "particular cruelty." They allege Thompson abused a "position of trust and confidence" and engaged in efforts to conceal the victims' bodies.

Additionally, Thompson is a "dangerous offender" who has multiple prior convictions for violent crimes, according to the notice.

In another filing, the prosecutors indicated they intend to introduce evidence of past physical and emotional abuse committed by Thompson toward DeFoe and Shabaiash. That includes several instances in which he allegedly hit or threatened either victim.

Thompson, who is held on $1 million bail, appeared in State District Court via video from a jail cell Wednesday, Aug. 5. Defense attorney Kassius Benson said he was still considering whether to challenge the sufficiency of probable cause or raise any constitutional issues stemming from the investigation.

Judge Jill Eichenwald gave the defense until Sept. 8 to file any motions.


Cloquet/Fond du Lac homicide locator Thompson/Defoe

A criminal complaint states that police were called to DeFoe's residence, 1620 Locke Lane, in Cloquet, to conduct a welfare check after a "concerned citizen" contacted authorities regarding a conversation with Thompson.

"(Thompson) was acting unusual and, when asked what was the matter, made a statement indicating that he had killed (DeFoe), and made a gesture indicating strangulation," the complaint states. "Defendant also made a statement that he had killed the child."

At the scene, officers from the Fond du Lac and Cloquet police departments observed damage to the house's front door, and a knock was met with no response.

After obtaining a search warrant, officers entered the house and found DeFoe dead inside a closet in one of the bedrooms. She had been stabbed "numerous times in various places on her body," with approximately 35 wounds discovered on her back and a "deep laceration" to the front of her neck, according to court documents.

Shabaiash was found dead in another bedroom, having suffered fractures to his leg, jaw and skull, which resulted in bleeding of the brain, according to autopsy findings.

Prosecutors said the bodies were concealed with clothes and blankets, and both bedroom doors were screwed shut.

Officers initiated a search for Thompson, eventually speaking with a woman who reported picking him up in Cloquet and driving him around before dropping him off along the side of a road. Thompson himself called 911, providing a location and indicating a desire to turn himself in, the complaint states. But he was not present when police arrived.


An extensive search ensued with the assistance of numerous agencies, including a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter, before authorities arrested Thompson on the night of March 8 in the woods near Mission Creek Road in Perch Lake Township.

Authorities added that the investigation led to "a number of witnesses" who reported that Thompson had told them he killed DeFoe and Shabaiash.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or
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