A cooling wind blows at the Russell Cemetery just to the north of Redwood River's snaking waters. It's here in a modest patch of Minnesota prairie where Jim and Cathy Hively were supposed to be laid to rest in the late spring. That must wait.
Fifteen miles away on this summer's most scorching day, Derek Hexum, the couple's alleged executioner, walked into Lyon County District Court in Marshall, knowing full well he would never again feel the winds of southwestern Minnesota against his flesh.
A sparse gallery and zero fanfare awaited as Hexum, just age 20, stood before Judge Michelle Dietrich on Tuesday.
Only a few reporters, a handful of clustered Hively family members, and three others speculated to be Hexum's relatives occupied the benches.
Hexum, a local kid with a reputation for trouble, said little during the brief hearing.
The charges against him were updated. They now include three counts of first degree burglary, two counts of second degree murder, first degree arson, second degree arson, and ineligible possession of a firearm.
Lyon County Public Defender Stephen Ferrazzano had filed an earlier motion to dismiss.
The motion was denied.
A message from City Pages left at Ferrazzano's office went unreturned.
The elderly rural couple, who had been married for 53 years, were gunned down in their home on April 30. They were found in the charred remains of their torched farmhouse situated on a 132-acre plot nine miles outside of the town of Balaton, population 630, the next day.
According to the criminal complaint, Hexum is alleged to be the triggerman as well as the ringleader of the ensuing arson plot that attempted to cover up evidence of the homicides.
After killing the Hivelys and stealing guns and Jim's car, Hexum reportedly returned to the crime scene with Theodore Como, 18, and Kyle Wesselink, 21.
Wesselink would later tell authorities that Hexum had necessitated the drive to the Hively farm because he said he needed to cover up evidence of the murders.
Como was reported to have soaked Jim's car with gasoline and set it ablaze. Hexum is alleged to have set the house on fire.
Como and Wesselink remain in custody, both charged with a variety of felonies.
Jenny Kirk, a longtime reporter at the Marshall Independent, says the community remains shellshocked.
"This kind of thing doesn't happen around here," says Kirk. "I think for everyone around here, we're still in disbelief and it remains raw."
Authorities have been tight-lipped in the aftermath. However, a meeting between Hexum's attorney and prosecutors has been scheduled for late July.
There's speculation that Hexum, who's likely aware he has no way out, could cop a plea.
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