Jonell Butler offered police a series of explanations for what he and his girlfriend were up to on the night of October 5, 2018.
Butler's most benign version of that night's events had him and Natalie Box driving around northeast Minneapolis and making "many stops," though that's about all.
Another time, Butler told cops he "could have" been committing robberies late that night and early the next morning, though if he had, he couldn't remember it because he was high on drugs.
The first story Butler told was also the most outrageous: He and Box had been kidnapped by two men that night, and the men who'd held them hostage "made [Butler] touch the proceeds," which, he said, explains why his finger prints were on stolen goods -- phones, purses, and cash -- cops had recovered from an SUV.
None of these tales held up, either under interrogation or in court. Butler pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree robbery, one charge of aggravated robbery, and one count of first-degree assault on August 1. On Monday, he was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison for a crime spree that included shooting Aaron "Hix" Lee, keyboardist for Minneapolis band Red Daughters, who was on his way to a concert at the 331 Club that night.
The shooting left Lee near death, and friends and fans rallied to contribute tens of thousands of dollars to help with his medical bills. Lee is still recovering from the gunshot, but has rejoined the band for recent concerts at Hewing Hotel and Icehouse, among others.
Butler's accomplice Natalie Box pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting his crimes, and was sentenced to six and a half years in prison earlier this summer.
Butler, 35, has a long criminal history in Louisiana, where he has sometimes lived, including multiple carjackings.
According to the complaint, Butler hopped out of a white SUV that had pulled up next to Lee and his girlfriend and pointed a gun at them. After getting their wallets and a cell phone, Butler walked back toward the car, at which point Lee "protested being robbed." Butler turned back and shot Lee "from only a few feet away," hitting him in the stomach.
Butler and Box mugged another couple in similar fashion about an hour later, and then robbed two women on the street around 1 a.m. the next morning.
The couples' crimes had started nearly a month earlier when Butler assaulted an acquaintance of Box's who was giving the two of them a ride. According to a press release from the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, Butler "put a knife to [the driver's] throat, made him pull over, and forced him out of the car."
Butler confessed to that crime soon after he was arrested, but denied involvement in the other three, stating, "I don't even have a gun." Cops took the statement as a giveaway; they hadn't mentioned a gun was used in the robberies.