Man imprisoned for 2009 mother-son slaying as juvenile now eligible for parole after resentencing

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An imprisoned man’s long legal fight for a lighter sentence in the 2008 stabbing deaths of a mother and her young son in south Minneapolis has ended with the now-32-year-old resentenced Friday to two concurrent life sentences with the possibility of parole.

The resentencing of Brian Lee Flowers follows an agreement he reached with prosecutors this week and means he is now eligible for parole because of changes to federal and state law regarding juvenile sentences.

Flowers, who was 16 at the time of the killings, and his 17-year-old accomplice, Stafon Edward Thompson, were convicted in 2009 of two counts of first-degree murder for the brutal slayings of 36-year-old Katricia Daniels and her 10-year-old son, Robert Shepard.

The Minneapolis teens were sentenced to two consecutive life terms, without the possibility of parole.

Katricia Daniels (left) and Robert Shepard

The murders were particularly gruesome: Daniels had been stabbed or cut at least 193 times, a pathologist testified at Thompson’s jury trial. The child was stabbed and cut more than 30 times, his head bashed with a television set.

Flowers first challenged the sentence shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that it is unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to mandatory life sentences without the possibility of release.

Flowers sought to be resentenced retroactively by the state district court.

2008 jail booking photo of Brian Lee Flowers (Courtesy of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office)

What ensued was a decade-long fight by Flowers and his attorneys, who’ve argued he had a lesser role in the killings than Thompson. They also cited several changes to federal and Minnesota law, and got favorable decisions in his case by the state’s highest court in 2010 and 2018.

Agreement with prosecutors

Flowers and prosecutors reached the agreement on Wednesday. Hennepin County District Judge William Koch accepted it on Friday and resentenced Flowers to the two concurrent sentences of life in prison with the possibility of supervised release.

In turn, Flowers agreed to dismiss his motion for a new trial and to cease his post-conviction litigation.

The agreement means Flowers will be eligible for parole about four years earlier than under the consecutive life sentences, according to prosecutors.

That’s because state legislators changed the law regarding juvenile sentences. Now, someone serving one or more concurrent life sentences for a crime committed as a juvenile is eligible for supervised release after 15 years. For someone serving consecutive life sentences, eligibility begins after 20 years. The law applies retroactively to all individuals sentenced for crimes committed as a juvenile.

2008 jail booking photo of Stafon Edward Thompson (Courtesy of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office)

Because Flowers has already served more than 15 years, he is eligible for a parole hearing now. Scheduling is up to the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Flowers’ legal team, which includes Perry Moriearty, a University of Minnesota Law School professor, and Brad Colbert, a professor at Mitchell-Hamline School of Law, issued a statement Friday on behalf of their client.

“(Flowers) is grateful that both the State and the Court have recognized his youth and — as did the Minnesota Supreme Court — his lesser culpability in these events,” the statement read, in part.

Ramsey County’s role

Due to a potential conflict of interest, the Hennepin County attorney’s office asked the Ramsey County attorney’s office in April to assume representation of the state.

The state Supreme Court determined in 2010 that Flowers’ role in the murders was “far less” than his co-defendant, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a Friday statement.

“We came to the same conclusion after reviewing this case for the past ten months,” Choi said, “and therefore resolved this case in a manner that reflected his lesser culpability, achieved an end to the litigation, and recognized the reality that the distinction between consecutive and concurrent sentences for Mr. Flowers was small due to retroactive changes in the law made by the Minnesota Legislature in 2023.”

According to the agreement, the attorney’s office spoke with several surviving family members of the victims and told them how the the new law applies Flowers. The family members told prosecutors they do not support Flowers’ concurrent sentences.

“It is impossible to overstate the gravity of the trauma, grief, and loss caused by the murders of Katricia Daniels and Robert Shephard,” the statement by Flowers’ attorneys read. “Brian takes full responsibility for and deeply regrets his role in the events of that night.”

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