Man charged with murder of woman in internet cafe ‘may be racist’

Minnesota attorney for racist Reddit user pleads not guilty to charges he killed Leonie Mae Hardwick after she blocked him on the online service

The Minnesota attorney representing a Reddit user accused of killing a woman outside an internet cafe has told a judge his client “may be racist, but he’s incompetent”.

Last week, Leonie Mae Hardwick was found dead at an internet cafe in Pipestone, Minnesota, with her wrists slashed and her body stabbed multiple times. The 46-year-old was reported missing on 31 December after friends became concerned about her whereabouts.

On Wednesday, the man who claims to be the victim’s grandson, 34-year-old James Kopp, appeared at Pipestone county court, where his attorney, Rick DeBoer, made the racist and incompetent claims.

Kopp faces two counts of second-degree murder. DeBoer told the court his client “may be racist, but he’s incompetent, so he can’t defend himself”.

DeBoer also suggested that Hardwick “may have tried to get a warrant for my client because she assumed he was planning on shooting her”. The attorney’s comments are in line with charges that Kopp used both firearms and a knife in the murder.

Kopp’s grandfather, Randall Kopp, who was in court on Wednesday, then argued that police may have staged the scene to make the shooting appear more efficient. Randall Kopp’s video testimony was a reference to the fact that police in Pipestone had lied and incorrectly showed investigators and jurors that the knife Kopp used to stab his victim had been used in the crime.

Kopp’s grandfather was in court and walked out when a loud argument broke out in the audience between the judge and DeBoer. Randall Kopp was handcuffed during the hearing, while DeBoer’s was unlocked by the judge. DeBoer became upset when the judge said he would allow defense attorneys to refuse to turn over certain evidence to the prosecution, something defense attorneys are allowed to do in lower-level cases.

In late November, Reddit user Cinco Burrito, who claims to be Leonie Hardwick’s grandson, posted on the site for the first time since her death. In his first comment on the site since Hardwick’s disappearance, Cinco Burrito wrote: “thank you for blocking me! Maybe she posted that she was trying to stop the killing and unfortunately she got her retaliation.

“I didn’t expect her to post, I thought maybe she wanted my contact info, which is cool but I just don’t want to see her come after me, she’s my grandma. I hope you all forgive me. I know that you can’t forgive her for what she’s done, I just want you to forgive me for what I did. No reason to see her again.”

Several commenters on Reddit responded by liking and replying to Cinco Burrito’s post – but in a decision that defense attorneys could argue could give the impression that he is the victim’s grandson, Cinco Burrito made clear that he was 24 years old at the time of the alleged killing.

Kopp’s aunt, Mary Kopp, said in a tweet on Wednesday that “we need to stop tiptoeing around the topic of why my dad is so angry”, suggesting that her father was mentally disturbed in other ways. The posts received attention from media outlets nationwide, as Kopp’s Reddit comments were covered extensively.

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