ST. CLOUD -- A Duluth man charged with fatally shooting a St. Cloud State University professor in June has avoided a jury trial and has pleaded guilty.

Forty-five-year-old Jason Beckman has pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder with intent without pre-meditation. A felony theft charge and a felony gun possession charge have been dismissed.

According to the criminal complaint, Beckman had borrowed a pickup in Duluth and was driving to southwestern Minnesota on June 20th to either collect some tools or see family, when he got lost in Waite Park. When the truck broke down, Beckman stole a running car and drove off.

Again, Beckman got lost, this time he ended up driving down Island View Drive where the shooting happened. He later told investigators he swerved to avoid a downed tree branch and crashed the car. That's when he went to the door of Ed Ward and began knocking.

When Ward answered the door, court records show Beckman shot him as Ward tried to slam the door shut. Beckman then fled on foot and headed north on the Beaver Island Trail.

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Beckman was spotted by St. Cloud State University security who kept a visual on him until police arrested him near Halenbeck Hall. Officers recovered a silver .45-caliber handgun with ammunition consistent with the bullets and casings found at Ward's home. The gun had previously been reported stolen from Red Wing.

Ward was rushed to the hospital where he died from two gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen.

In a statement to police, Beckman claimed to be a drug addict and have been previously diagnosed with PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and manic depressive disorder.

Police say a search warrant of the stolen car turned up drugs, drug paraphernalia, and additional ammunition.

For more information and a link to the entire criminal complaint, visit our previous story from just days after the shooting.

Beckman's trial was scheduled to begin Monday.  Instead, he'll be sentenced in Stearns County District Court Friday, October 29th.


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