Man charged with murder in fatal Sibley County farm shooting

A man accused of shooting and killing a man last year on a farm near Winthrop, Minnesota, is now charged with murder, court documents show.

Travis Joel Bauer, 46, faces one count of second-degree murder in connection with the death of 79-year-old Dennis Weitzenkamp. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to 40 years.

According to a charging document filed in Sibley County District Court, Bauer called 911 the afternoon of Sept. 20 to report that Weitzenkamp was unresponsive and that there was blood. Officers arriving at the scene found the victim slumped on a chair in a machine shed.

Investigators determined the victim died of a small-caliber bullet to the back of the head that he appeared to have suffered while shucking corn, the criminal complaint states.

Bauer had allegedly told investigators that he was working on the farm with Weitzenkamp until lunch, when they left to eat at their respective homes. He then said he returned to work on a tractor but left after a bit to get some anti-freeze from Napa Auto Parts in Winthrop, passing Weitzenkamp on Country Road 57 on the way there.

However, cell phone tracking data show Bauer’s travel that afternoon did not match up with what he told investigators.

Bauer had claimed that he wasn’t at the farm with the victim again until he had returned from Napa, but location data showed he and Weitzenkamp were both at the farm around 2:16 p.m., the complaint states. He also appeared to have taken a different route into town from what he told police. Furthermore, Weitzenkamp was captured driving on a squad camera less than half an hour before Bauer called 911.

Investigators noted that when Bauer was questioned again, he admitted to lying about his whereabouts.

Prosecutors say Bauer had “significant debt” and was struggling to pay his bills. Bauer had also been notified about an hour before Weitzenkamp’s body was found that he was in danger of defaulting on his mortgage.

Bauer worked on Weitzenkamp’s farm for years and “was considered part of the family,” the complaint states. Trust documents also revealed that Bauer stood to gain “significant financial benefit” if Weitzenkamp died.

Bauer made his first court appearance on Monday, and his next hearing is scheduled for April 6. A judge set his bail at $1 million without conditions or $500,000 with conditions.