A Le Center man pleading guilty to second-degree murder for fatally stabbing his father was sentenced to 25 years on Friday.
Hardy Robert Wills-Traxler, 27, is to spend at least two thirds of his 306-month prison sentence at the Minnesota Department of Corrections for the Jan. 24, 2021 killing of his father, Bruce Alan Taxler, 64, also of Le Center, with 664 days credit in time served for the nearly 22 months he’s spent incarcerated at the Le Sueur County Jail and Anoka State Hospital since his arrest.
Under the sentence handed down by District Court Judge Patrick M. Biren, Wills-Traxler would become eligible for a supervised release for up to one third of sentence starting in the year 2038.
Arson charges related to the case were dismissed in a plea deal between prosecution and the defendant.
Wills-Traxler was first taken into custody by police after his father’s body was discovered by firefighters responding to a shed fire at 37722 Hunting Preserve Lane, Le Center at approximately 7:15 a.m Jan. 24, 2021.
Wills-Traxler and his father Bruce Traxler lived together in the shed. According to investigators, the defendant told police on the night of the murder he and his father got into an argument, and he grabbed a knife, because he was scared. He kept the knife with him as the conflict turned physical.Traxler then hit his son on the shoulder, according to the defendant, and he responded by stabbing the victim with the knife multiple times.
An autopsy concluded Traxler had been stabbed multiple times, with stab wounds found in the left and right chest areas and the abdomen. An examination of Wills-Traxler did not find any evidence of bruising on his shoulder.
According to the criminal complaint, Wills-Traxler told law enforcement he then gathered his belongings and washed the blood from his hands. He then placed a pillow on the stovetop and turned on the burners. After the flames were lit, he drove away.
The subsequent fire destroyed the building and burned the victim’s body beyond recognition.
Wills-Traxler was soon arrested after police received multiple reports of man telling people that “he killed his father.” Psychiatric evaluations found Wills-Traxler to be mentally ill and the criminal case was temporarily put on hold as the defendant was ruled incapable of understanding the criminal proceedings.
The case resumed on Oct. 15, 2021 after Wills-Traxler was ruled competent. His attorney, Public Defender Richard Ohlenberg initially told the court Wills-Traxler intended to plead not guilty by reasons of mental illness and self-defense. A trial set for October 2022 was waived once Wills-Traxler pleaded guilty.
A psychiatric evaluation of Wills-Traxler by Clinical Psychologist Dr. George Komardis found that, at the time of the murder, he “was laboring under such defect of reason as to not know the nature of his act or that it was wrong. The available information and his own statements indicate that he was convinced that his father was possessed by at least one spirit and that he intended to harm Mr. Traxler.”
“Mr. Traxler’s fear of his father’s harm came to full fruition when his father aggressively approached him and grabbed him physically,” the report continued. “At that point, Mr. Traxler was of the belief that he was in imminent danger of harm and/or death and he responded in self-defense.”