OSHKOSH – A Minnesota woman was sentenced Friday to three years in prison for charges related to the 2021 stabbing death of a Neenah man.
Terran R. Colwell, 30, of Minneapolis, was convicted of substantial battery with intention to cause bodily harm and harboring or aiding a felon in Winnebago County Circuit Court in July. Following two consecutive 18-month prison sentences, Colwell was sentenced to four years of extended supervision — two years for each count. The court also ordered Colwell to pay restitution to the victim's family, to go toward cremation and funeral expenses.
Rodger Ridgeway, 22, was found laying in the grass in the 200 block of Martens Street in downtown Neenah on a night in April 2021. He had multiple stab wounds and was “beyond life-saving efforts," police said. An autopsy revealed Ridgeway died of six knife wounds.
At Colwell's sentencing and restitution hearing Friday, the court heard attorneys review facts of the case, attorneys discuss Colwell's criminal history and Ridgeway's mother and godfather provide victim impact statements.
Mandel Roy, 27, of Minneapolis, is charged with felony murder in connection with the case. Colwell previously faced a charge of felony murder, but it was dropped during the course of the investigation.
The details of the case have been unclear, partly because investigators were unable to determine for certain if it was Colwell or Roy who stabbed Ridgeway. Cameras from nearby businesses on the night of April 17, 2021, captured parts of the incident that led to Ridgeway's death, but not all of it. And while Ridgeway died of knife wounds, neither Colwell, Roy, nor a fourth person present for the altercation, Charles Hoofman, 51, of Neenah, admitted to seeing a knife, Winnebago County District Attorney Eric Sparr said.
"We don't know who did it. We know essentially that it's one of these two people," Sparr said.
Sparr and defense attorney Paul Zilles said it was clear from video footage that the physical altercation was started by Roy.
On the night of the fatal stabbing, Colwell said Ridgeway approached her and Roy at Gord's Pub, 210 Main St. in Neenah. At some point, Roy and Ridgeway began talking one-on-one. Zilles said the conversation was related to an altercation between Ridgeway's mother and members of the Hell's Lovers motorcycle club.
After Ridgeway left, Colwell and Roy moved to a car, Zilles said. Shortly after, Colwell's stepfather and other members of Hell's Lovers approached, and Colwell and Roy left the vehicle. In video footage, investigators said Roy appeared to secretly grab a wooden tire knocker from the car.
"Terran (Colwell) got out and walked over toward her father. Mr. Roy got out, took a few steps, then went back and got this tire knocker, it's clear you can see him concealing it up his sleeve," Zilles said.
Zilles said Roy then "had a couple conversations" then "immediately" went back toward Gord's Pub. Colwell shortly followed.
It was believed that they then made a second contact with Ridgeway, and things "started to unravel," Zilles said.
Police compiled video footage from businesses near where the incident occurred, the nearby motorcycle club Eagle Nation Cycles — where local members of Hell's Lovers met, according to the criminal complaint — Gord's Pub, and a doorbell camera at a nearby residence.
Video footage showed Colwell, Roy, Ridgeway and Hoofman walk from the bar area to an open field just outside the motorcycle club. In the field, Ridgeway and Roy walked in front of the other two people, with his hand on Ridgeway's back or shoulder — it's unclear from the video if the gesture was friendly or forcible, Sparr said.
Shortly after, Roy delivered two strikes to Ridgeway with what is believed to be the tire knocker, first to his abdomen, then to his legs. Pieces of the broken tire knocker were later found in the area.
After that point, the four people move behind a building, resulting in the camera with a closeup view being unable to capture the incident. Sparr said that left investigators having to rely on cameras from far away, which in the darkness of night provided little clarity beyond moving "blurs."
At a few points, Sparr said, some aspects of the conflict became more visible. The camera captures Colwell moving into the altercation, then getting knocked down.
"For the most part, though, the remainder of the physical conflict is chaotic and difficult to make sense of," Sparr said.
At some point during the incident, Colwell asked for a knife, but no knife was provided, Colwell and Hoofman told investigators.
While Hoofman was present for the altercation, investigators determined he did not appear to be close enough to Ridgeway to have committed the stabbing.
Video footage from a nearby residence captured the end of the altercation. It showed Colwell walking away from the scene, while Roy remained by Ridgeway, who was on the ground, Zilles said.
After the incident, cameras captured Roy return to the clubhouse with his hands in his pockets, Zilles said. One witness referenced in the complaint said they saw blood on Roy's hands.
Within a few days after the incident, Colwell and Roy left the area and had a police contact in Shawano, where they gave fake names. Roy was arrested on charges of misdemeanor drug possession and resisting and obstructing an officer. Colwell was released and returned to her home in Minnesota. Sparr said Colwell and Roy seemed from conversations to have had a plan to end up in different states after the stabbing.
Several months after Ridgeway was killed, Colwell's stepfather provided some items to law enforcement he believed may have been connected to the homicide. Sparr said Colwell's stepfather had been having health issues and moved out of state, so it took some time for him to go through his belongings at the basement of Eagle Nation Cycles, where he was living, according to the complaint.
Among the items was a knife, which had Ridgeway's DNA on it.
"I don't know of any other explanation other than it actually was the knife that was used," Sparr said.
Because it was found later, Sparr said the recovery of the knife was not part of criminal complaint or pre-sentence investigation.
Ridgeway's wallet was never recovered during the investigation, Sparr said.
At the hearing, Sparr said he initially believed Colwell had done the actual stabbing, despite Roy starting the altercation, and included that in the complaint. However, Sparr said he was not sure that belief was shared by all members of law enforcement involved in the investigation, and further review of the facts during the course of the investigation made Sparr eventually change his mind, that he believed it was more likely Roy or both Roy and Colwell that stabbed Ridgeway.
Two months before Ridgeway's stabbing, Colwell was convicted of aggravated robbery in Minnesota and sentenced to five years of probation.
Zilles said Colwell has had a difficult last three years, and finds herself in her current situation largely as a result of alcohol and drug use. He said she dropped out of high school after having her daughter at 16, but despite working a number of jobs, she was able to make ends meet for her and her daughter.
Before Colwell was sentenced, Ridgeway's mother and godfather provided witness impact statements. They shared personal memories of Ridgeway — who they called by his middle name, Cole — and described him as a kind man who died days before his 23rd birthday. Both expressed emotion in the courtroom, requested the judge give Colwell the maximum sentence.
Colwell's three years in prison followed by four years extended supervision, served consecutively to any previously imposed sentences in Minnesota, was the maximum sentence for the charges, Judge Daniel Blissett said.
Colwell has 501 days' credit from time already spent in jail.
Roy is scheduled to appear in Winnebago County Circuit Court for further proceedings Oct. 31.
This article originally appeared on Appleton Post-Crescent: Woman sentenced to prison for role in stabbing death of Neenah man