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Accused cold case killer asks for lower bail

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Attorney Steven Meshbesher addresses reporters as Jerry Westrom stands by.
Attorney Steven Meshbesher addresses reporters as his client Jerry Westrom stands close by following a Wednesday hearing.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

An Isanti man accused of murder in a cold case from more than two decades ago asked a Hennepin County judge to reduce his bail on Wednesday.

Attorney Steven Meshbesher argued that Jerry Westrom's bail be reduced from $500,000 to $150,000. Meshbesher said Westrom, 52, who is accused of stabbing Jeanne Ann Childs to death in her Minneapolis apartment in 1993, recently lost his job and is in financial trouble.

Jerry Arnold Westrom
Jerry Westrom
Courtesy of Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

He said Westrom has been able to pay $15,000 to the bail bond company so far, but will have a hard time paying more.

Westrom appeared in court, but didn't speak to the judge.

In arguing for the reduced bail, Meshbesher said Westrom is not a flight risk and doesn't pose a public safety.

"He's never committed a violent crime in his life," said Meshbesher.

Westrom has not formally entered a plea, although Meshbesher has said he intends to plead not guilty. According to the criminal complaint, Westrom told police he'd never met Childs and never went to her apartment.

Prosecutors say DNA matching Westrom was found at the scene, but it took help from a commercial genealogy website and a discarded napkin used by Westrom earlier this year to catch their suspect.

Meshbesher has said the DNA evidence is "thin", and he said he's hiring a DNA expert and others in Westrom's defense.

Judge Martha Holton Dimick agreed to reduce Westrom's bail to $250,000.

"That's as low as the court is willing to go," she said.

Meshbesher later said the reduction was "a start," but added that Westrom's defense is going to be expensive.

Westrom's next court appearance is scheduled for May 28.