4 facing murder charges in SpringHill Suites fatal robbery

Four people have been charged in connection with a fatal shooting in a downtown St. Paul parking ramp earlier this year.

Charges have trickled in as the investigation has unfolded in the August shooting of 37-year-old Alexander Christoff in the SpringHill Suites parking structure.

Anthony Pryor, 20, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder on Sept. 17 and entered a not guilty plea on Oct. 1. Tarrance Hardie, 27, was charged via a warrant on Oct. 18 and is facing one charge of second-degree murder.

Thursday, Leneil Colbert Jr., 31, and Danell Christner, 37, were both charged with one count each of second-degree murder. Colbert made his first appearance Thursday; there is a warrant out for Christner’s arrest.

A fifth person is named as an alleged accomplice in the three most recent criminal complaints.

On Aug. 29, police went to Regions Hospital on a report of a shooting victim who had been driven to the facility by a friend, according to various court filings. The black Audi the friend had driven, which police were told belonged to the victim, had a broken driver’s side and passenger’s side window, a large dent in the driver’s side rear bumper, broken taillights, a bullet hole in the trunk and a bullet lodged in the passenger door.

The victim, identified as Christoff, was pronounced dead at the hospital.

According to a criminal complaint, Christoff had hired a sex worker on the evening of Aug. 28, who officers identified as Christner. Cell phone records indicate that immediately after Christner left Christoff’s hotel room, she called Colbert and told him that the victim had “a lot of money, a lot of drugs and a nice car,” and provided his room number. The complaint states that they called or texted one another at least nine times prior to the shooting.

Christoff’s friend, who had driven him to the hospital, told police that he was on the second floor of the garage — they were both staying at the hotel in separate rooms — when he saw a dark Mercedes-Benz drive by slowly and “check [him] out.” The car drove off, then he heard a crash, arguing, gunshots and moaning, the complaint states. The Mercedes-Benz then peeled out.

The friend went up a level in the garage and found Christoff lying facedown near the Audi’s open passenger’s side door. Christoff only groaned when his friend tried to ask who shot him, and after his phone didn’t work, he drove him to the hospital.

Surveillance video shows Pryor with a Colt .45 in the garage and nearby elevator appearing to have been in the suspect vehicle’s front passenger seat, court documents say. Video showed two others — Hardie and another accomplice — also with Pryor in the car, which was corroborated by GPS data.

The investigation determined that Hardie, Pryor and the other accomplice had planned to rob Christoff of his money, drugs, jewelry and car, a complaint states. They blocked in Christoff’s Audi with their Mercedes-Benz, got out of the car to demand Christoff open his door, and when Christoff subsequently refused, Pryor shot him three times and killed him.

A bullet that entered Christoff’s right shoulder lacerated his right lung, diaphragm, liver and abdominal aorta, according to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy. A second bullet went through his right leg and the angles of both were consistent with a .45 caliber round. The examiner ruled that he died from exsanguination and that his death was a homicide.

After the shooting, Pryor went to a bar in downtown St. Paul — where he’d been with Hardie, an accomplice and Colbert before the shooting — carrying a white plastic bag and met Colbert.

During Christner’s and Colbert’s 53 plus text messages within an hour after the shooting, she told him that “a guy might be dead,” and he instructed her to ditch her phone, sell her car and move, a complaint says.

On Sept. 14, officers found the damaged Mercedes-Benz at a Hopkins autobody shop; employees said it had been dropped off on Sept. 2, a complaint says. They arrested Pryor on Sept. 15 in Apple Valley.

Pryor told police that a friend had asked him to help with the simple robbery and that it didn’t go according to plan, according to court documents. Pryor said that after refusing to open his door, Christoff reversed his Audi and crashed into the Mercedes; Pryor then fired three shots. He also said he tossed stolen items, his gun and his phone and burned his clothing from the night of the shooting. He also corroborated evidence that he, Hardie and the other accomplice were together.

Pryor’s next court date is Wednesday; he has pleaded not guilty to both second-degree murder charges. Hardie has a hearing upcoming on Nov. 22 and Colbert has one on Nov. 29.