Bonga takes stand in felony assault, false imprisonment trial in Becker County; closing arguments Friday
Patrick Charles Bonga took the stand in his own defense during his felony assault and false imprisonment trial at the Becker County Courthouse on Dec. 1. Bonga is accused of burning Alexander Robare with a pot of boiling water, chaining him to a post inside his residence and assaulting him over a period of about three hours on June 7.
DETROIT LAKES — Jurors heard from the defendant Patrick Charles Bonga as he took the stand in his own defense on day two of his trial for felony assault and false imprisonment on Thursday.
Bonga, 40, of Detroit Lakes, was charged with felony first- and second-degree assault and false imprisonment as the result of an incident at his home on June 7, 2022.
According to the criminal complaint, on June 7, Bonga allegedly attacked Alexander Robare as he entered his home shortly after midnight. One witness stated Bonga, then, poured boiling water from a nearby stove onto Robare, which caused him to suffer multiple first- and second-degree burns on the left side of his torso, arm and back. Bonga also allegedly affixed a chain around Robare's neck to a nearby living room post with an electronic lock, which prevented Robare from leaving.
The electronic lock eventually failed and Robare escaped the residence through an open window sometime after 3 a.m.
Brooke Saunders, 24, of Detroit Lakes, testified for the prosecution after pleading guilty to first-degree aggravated robbery in connection with the June 7 incident. She received five years of supervised probation for pleading guilty and testifying truthfully against Bonga.
On the stand, Saunders said Bonga struck Robare without warning or provocation as he entered the residence. Then, he poured the boiling water from the stove on Robare, which caused him to "squirm around on the floor."
Saunders and her acquaintance, Alicia Alaniz, who was also at the residence at the time of the assault, then began to strike Robare with a broken wooden rake handle and took his earbuds, phone and the small amount of cash he had on him at the time of the incident.
She also claimed Bonga held a running, handheld circular saw near Robare's face and threatened him. Although she wasn't sure of the exact words, she said she was sure it was a threat.
Around 3 a.m., Saunders said they heard a "beep" come from the electronic lock while they were in the kitchen, which indicated the battery had died. She said Robare then freed himself and escaped the residence through an open window and they didn't pursue him.
Detroit Lakes Police Officer Michael Heinecke took the stand for the prosecution next and stated he had received a report from Essentia Health St. Mary's emergency room personnel about a possible assault. Heinecke said he went to the hospital at about 3:30 a.m. and interviewed Robare while he was under medical care.
Heinecke said he noticed red marks and blisters across his body and described Robare's demeanor as quiet and wincing in pain. Heinecke listened to Robare's account of the events that took place and photographed Robare's injuries. He then relayed his information to Detroit Lakes Police Detective Sergeant Chad Glander.
Glander testified that he assisted officers at the scene during the execution of a search warrant for the Bonga residence, but was primarily outside the residence during the search which found: a long chain in the basement; an electronic lock on the second floor of the residence; and some of Robare's personal items that were taken from him during the incident.
He also interviewed Bonga in a vehicle on June 7 after reading him his Miranda rights.
Becker County Prosecutor Brian McDonald then played the jury the audio from that interview in which Bonga told Glander that Robare had suffered his injuries due to being struck by a car and not anything that happened at his residence.
Also during the interview with Glander on June 7, Bonga told Glander that he didn't "know anything about the burns on his body."
Detroit Lakes Police Investigator Brent Fulton also testified for the prosecution. Fulton is currently assigned to the West Central Minnesota Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force and was a scene point person during the search of Bonga's residence. Fulton also secured a search warrant for Bonga's cell phone, which contained a deleted video created around 3 a.m. on the date of the assault and showed Bonga kicking, punching and stomping Robare at the residence before the video stops. The prosecution played the video for the jury.
Fulton also took jurors through crime scene photos of the Bonga residence that showed a wooden living room post with multiple points of scuffed paint and exposed wood, which prosecutors claimed was where Robare's chain was connected.
Prosecutors also played a video of a video call Bonga received while in jail. In the video, he claimed ownership of the circular saw, chain and lock to the caller.
Dr. John Belk, emergency medical physician at Essentia Health St. Mary's in Detroit Lakes, testified that he treated Robare on June 7 in the emergency room. Dr. Belk described the severity of the first- and second-degree burns found on Robare and also said the burn areas may never fully heal.
He also described to the jury that the petechiae lesions found on Robare's neck were broken capillaries from the likely result of the neck being compressed. Dr. Belk also told the prosecutor the lesions could be a sign of restraint.
Following Dr. Belk's testimony, the prosecution rested and the defense called Patrick Bonga to the stand.
Bonga told jurors he was hosting a private gathering on June 6 when Alicia Alaniz showed up with Alexander Robare around midnight as most of the guests were leaving.
He said he had never seen Robare before and he was "advancing" toward him with an "attitude," so he hit him with a left, which caused Robare to stumble back into the stove and the boiling water to splatter onto him.
At that point, he said, the two women began beating Robare with the wooden stick.
Bonga said he grabbed the nearby circular saw to get it out of the room and said he told Robare that "I don't want you doing anything stupid with that."
He also denied chaining Robare at the residence and said he was free to leave at any time and was "astonished" that he didn't.
On cross-examination of Bonga, McDonald asked Bonga if this whole thing was a misunderstanding, to which Bonga replied, "No, you know what this case is, this case is a lynching."
McDonald asked Bonga why Robare and Saunders said that he had poured the hot water on Robare, to which Bonga said that she was coerced by the prosecutor and their cooperative agreement during her guilty plea.
Bonga then admitted to lying to Glander in his initial interview on June 7. And, when pressed by McDonald about whether Bonga held Robare against his will, Bonga replied, "I didn't chain him up."
Closing arguments are expected on Dec. 2 at the Becker County Courthouse with jury deliberations to begin immediately afterward.
If convicted on all three felony counts, Bonga would face a maximum of 33 years in prison.