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Suspect in man camp stabbing goes on trial in Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS — A Grand Forks jury heard opening statements and the first batch of witnesses Tuesday in the murder trial of Ryan Neil Anderson.

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The Iron River, Mich., man stands accused of stabbing his longtime friend and co-worker Christopher King twice in the chest and twice in the abdomen on March 17, 2013, at a man camp — where male oilfield workers typically live en masse — near Tioga, northeast of Williston.

The trial was moved from Williams County to the Grand Forks County Courthouse because of concerns the media coverage would result in an unfair trial for Anderson.

Anderson maintains he acted in self-defense.

“This night is a night that ended in tragedy for everybody,” said defense attorney Nicole Foster, referring to the night of the stabbing. “But it was not murder.”

Night at the bar

Foster said in opening remarks that she expects witness testimony to show Anderson acted in self-defense when he stabbed King.

She said Anderson was attacked multiple times and King was the “primary aggressor.”

Prosecuting attorney Jonathan Byers argued in his opening statement that the evidence, which includes video footage of the stabbing, does not show someone acting in self-defense.

“Now it’s time that (Anderson) pays the piper,” Byers told the jury.

On Tuesday, the prosecution called two detectives from the Williams County Sheriff’s Office to the stand as well as two witnesses of the stabbing.

One of the witnesses was David Nardi, an Iron River man who worked under Anderson in the oilfields.

Nardi testified that on the night of the stabbing, he and other residents of the man camp, including Anderson and King, drove to The Jungle, a Tioga bar and restaurant, to watch mixed martial arts fights and drink.

He testified that Anderson’s girlfriend, Rebecca Rogers, was also at the bar, but left because she was not interested in the fights.

Fighting starts

Byers argued in his opening statement that Rogers’ leaving set the rest of the night in motion.

Nardi testified that when the men returned to the housing unit in the man camp where Anderson, Rogers and Nardi lived, Anderson grabbed Rogers and threw her against the fridge in the unit’s common area.

In her opening remarks, Foster alleged that Anderson never laid a finger on Rogers, saying the closest he came to touching her that night was when he knocked a cup out of her hand.

Nardi then testified that he grabbed Anderson and restrained him against the wall, which led to more fighting. He said Anderson was on top of him trying to choke him when another resident of the housing unit pulled Anderson off. Then Nardi put Anderson on one of the couches in the common area and choked him for about 10 seconds, he testified.

He also testified that he saw King hold Anderson down on the ground, choke him and slap him openhanded while saying, “This is how you made Becca feel.”

A stabbing

Nardi testified that there was a span of a couple of hours when heated comments were thrown back and forth and the residents were waiting for Anderson to go to bed, during which time Anderson was moving around freely.

Nardi, who was visibly struggling to maintain composure, also told the jury how he turned around to see King stabbed and rolled King onto his side when he was collapsed in the parking lot gasping for air.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Nardi said when asked what was going through his mind at the time. “I had been friends with Ryan for years. ... To think that this happened, it took a lot out of everybody.”

Nardi helped lift King into Anderson’s pickup truck, and Anderson drove him to the Tioga Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at about 4:20 a.m.

The trial is scheduled to continue into next week.