Teen pleads not guilty in death of 2-year-old

Louise Oleson

James Alberts Jr., 17, of St. Michael, N.D., pleaded not guilty to the charge of AA felony murder June 25 in Northeast District court.

Alberts is charged with the Jan. 5, 2006, murder of 21-month-old Katrina Ann Rardon.

At the time, according to the official warrant for his arrest, Alberts was living with the child’s mother. At 11 a.m. that day, she left Katrina in Alberts’ care for a few minutes to go to McDonald’s. When she left, the toddler was awake and in a healthy condition.

When she returned her child was dead.

The cause of death was determined to be blunt-force trauma to the head, and the girl had numorous other injuries that suggested possible gross sexual imposition, as well, according to court documents.

After court-ordered psychological evaluation of Alberts in April, the case was moved to adult court.

In court, Judge Donovan Foughty asked Alberts’ attorneys, William Hartl and Coral Mahler, if their client wanted a preliminary hearing. Mahler related her client’s wishes to waive the preliminary hearing, so the court proceeded to arraignment.

Alberts spoke to the judge saying he wanted to waive the formal reading of the charges against him.

Foughty explained the maximum and minimum mandatory sentence facing Alberts if he is found guilty. He also explained Alberts’ rights to a trial by a jury of his peers and to confront witnesses against him.

A trial date was not immediately set. The judge requested that all evidence against Alberts be made available to the defense. Once that is done, they would schedule the jury trial.

State's Attorney Lonnie Olson said the trial would take place some time around December.

The murder charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.

Alberts is being held in the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center on a $500,000 bond.