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Menahga man charged in teen’s killing opts out of guilty plea

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. -- A Menahga man abruptly withdrew his intention to plead guilty Monday in the February killing of a Park Rapids teen.

Harley David Leritz, 21, is charged with second-degree murder in the strangling death of Keila Gem Knowles, 19, in her Park Rapids apartment. He is also charged with a probation violation related to a 2012 criminal sexual conduct conviction.

A plea hearing was set for Monday morning, but Leritz opted out of entering a guilty plea.

Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne said he couldn’t say why Leritz changed his mind. He met privately with members of Knowles’ family in the courtroom after the hearing.

Judge Paul Rasmussen was scheduled to hear the plea Monday. Another hearing set for Tuesday was canceled.

Leritz is jailed in Hubbard County on $1.5 million unconditional bail and $1 million conditional.

Leritz has been convicted of traffic and liquor charges, as well as fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving an underage female.

For that crime he received 30 days in jail and 10 years of supervised probation. He is charged with a probation violation in that case, for allegedly failing to remain law abiding.