The trial for Watertown Township resident Christian Oberender was set to begin earlier this week in Carver County Court.
Oberender, 33, is charged with felony possession of a firearm, as well as a misdemeanor charge of possessing a firearm after having been previously committed for mental illness. Oberender was adjudicated delinquent as a minor in 1995 for the murder of his mother, but was allegedly found earlier this year to be illegally in possession of 13 guns.
The felony charge carries a statutory five-year sentence. If convicted, state law would require that he serve at least 66 percent of that sentence, at which point he would be eligible for release. Oberender has already served nearly a year in jail since his Jan. 2 arrest, which would count as time served, meaning his likely sentence would be a little more than two years if he is found guilty.
Jury selection for the trial started on Tuesday. Carver County Attorney Mark Metz and Chief Deputy County Attorney Peter Ivy are prosecuting the case.
The case is a high-profile one that garnered attention statewide and even on a national level, and raised questions about gun control and background checks. For unknown reasons, no record of Oberender’s conviction as a juvenile showed up in background checks, helping him obtain gun purchase permits from several counties, including Carver. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which maintains the criminal database used in background checks, said it never received the records it needed from Carver County.
However, Oberender allegedly also switched his first and middle names on his gun permit application to Carver County, and lied on the application about having been previously found to be mentally ill and dangerous.
Oberender was arrested on Jan. 2 at his home on Neal Avenue just east of Watertown, the same home in which he killed his mother in 1995. According to the criminal complaint against Oberender, deputies found 13 guns in the home, including several automatic weapons.
Deputies also discovered a chilling note, believed to have been written by Oberender and addressed to his mother, in which he wrote that he often thought about killing “all the time,” and that he wanted others to feel the pain and hurt in his soul. In part, the note said, “The monster want out. I know what happens when he comes out. He only been out one time, and somebody die.”
According to neighbors, Oberender had been living in the Neal Avenue home for a number of years before his arrest, frequently shooting guns in the backyard with friends for hours at a time. At least one call was made to the Sheriff’s Office in 2011 about the frequent shooting, but nothing was done because background checks mistakenly showed no reasons that Oberender couldn’t have guns.
However, the mother of Oberender’s girlfriend alerted police Dec. 31 of concerning messages and photos that Oberender had posted on Facebook, some of which allegedly showed him holding automatic weapons. This time, authorities went to the house several days later, searched the home, and made an arrest.