Man sentenced to life for murder as a teen now eligible for release

A Hennepin County judge ruled Friday that because of changes in the law, a Minneapolis man sent to prison for life as a teenager for his role in a double homicide is now eligible for parole.

Brian Lee Flowers and Stafon Edward Thompson, both 32, were convicted of first-degree murder in the 2008 stabbing deaths of Katricia Daniels, 35, and her 10-year-old son Robert Shepard in south Minneapolis. Thompson was 17 at the time of the killings; Flowers was a week shy of his 17th birthday.

In 2009, a judge sentenced Flowers and Thompson to two life terms each without the possibility of parole.

In the years since, changes to state and federal law allowed people convicted of murder as juveniles to be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.

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Because Flowers had been sentenced to consecutive terms, those changes initially made him eligible for parole in 2068, when he would be 77 years old.

In 2017, Judge William Koch, noting that Flowers played a lesser role in the murders than his co-defendant, restructured Flowers’ sentences to be concurrent instead of consecutive, moving his parole eligibility date to 2038, but the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed Koch’s decision.

As Flowers’ attorneys continued to press forward with his case, Minnesota lawmakers in 2023 abolished life without parole for juveniles. The DFL-led Legislature allowed people convicted of crimes they committed as juveniles who are serving two consecutive life sentences to be eligible for parole after 20 years; those serving concurrent life sentences are eligible for release after 15 years.

Because of a potential conflict of interest, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office handed the case to Ramsey County prosecutors, which agreed with defense attorneys to seek concurrent sentences for Flowers. Judge Koch approved the deal, and because Flowers has already served 15 years, he may be considered for parole now.

In a statement, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said that while “Flowers’ culpability is considerably less than that of his co-defendant,” he plans to oppose parole for Flowers “until at least 2028,” and intends to oppose concurrent sentences for Thompson.