Hardy Wills-Traxler mugshot

A Le Center man stabbed his father to death and set fire to the crime scene before fleeing, according to charges filed in Le Sueur County County Court.

Hardy Robert Wills-Traxler, 25, appeared in court Wednesday on second-degree murder charges in the death of his father, 64-year-old Bruce Traxler.  Wills-Traxler is also charged with first-degree arson.

According to the criminal complaint, the report of a fire at Bruce Traxler’s residence the morning of Jan 24 set off a chain of events leading to Wills-Traxler’s arrest.

At 7:15 a.m., Bruce Traxler’s brother, Jeffrey Traxler, reported a shed was fully engulfed in flames at 37722 Hunting Preserve Lane.  Jeffrey Traxler reported he believed that his brother was inside the shed, which had living quarters used by Bruce Traxler, according to the complaint.

Jeffrey Traxler told deputies his brother’s son, Hardy Wills-Traxler, also lived in the shed.  According to Jeffrey Traxler, his brother and nephew hadn’t been getting along, and he believed “Hardy did something,” says the complaint.

Bruce Traxler’s body was discovered inside the shed less than two hours after emergency personnel arrived on the scene, according to the complaint.

Police learned that Wills-Traxler drove a 2007, gold-colored Toyota Corolla, which was gone from the property.  Jeffrey Traxler had reported to deputies that he’d seen fresh tire tracks where Hardy parks his vehicle.

As the investigation continued, detectives learned of two suspicious incident reports involving a gold Toyota from two different law enforcement agencies.

At 8:50 a.m., Mankato Public Safety responded to the CHS Plant on Riverfront Dr, where a snowplow driver reported that a man in a gold Toyota stopped him and made comments that “he killed his father.”  The plow driver later identified Wills-Traxler in a line-up, according to the complaint.

Just before 1 p.m., investigators learned from the Watonwan County Sheriff’s Office that a group of snowmobilers had been stopped by a man driving a gold Toyota.  The snowmobilers said the man was in possession of a knife and introduced himself as Hardy Traxler.  Wills-Traxler referenced the bible, told the snowmobilers that “he killed his father,” then left the area, according to the complaint.

Minutes later, a Blue Earth County deputy spotted the Toyota minutes later near Highway 169 and Highway 60.  Wills-Traxler was pulled over and arrested.

Wills-Traxler told investigators that he and his father were talking about each other’s friends the night of the murder.  He told police he and his father were arguing, so he grabbed a knife because he felt scared.  Wills-Traxler said his father told him that he wasn’t scared of him.

The complaint says the two men got into a fight, and when his father hit him in the shoulder, Wills-Traxler said he stabbed Bruce Traxler “a bunch of times,” including in the heart.   After the stabbing, his father went unconscious and “was just gone,” says the complaint.  “It was weird,” Wills-Traxler said of murder.

Court documents say Wills-Traxler told police “he did what he did” and decided to “just f**king burn it,” and that “he just had to get out of there and get on with his life.”  He also told investigators he was sorry, and it sucked; that he never wanted it to be that way, says the complaint.

Wills-Traxler admitted that prior to lighting the fire, he had gathered his belongings and washed the blood off his hands.  He told detectives he put pillows on the stovetop and turned on the burners before fleeing the residence.

Police say Wills-Traxler did not have any noticeable injuries, although he claimed an injury to his shoulder.  Court documents say he was examined at a New Prague hospital by doctors, who also did not find any injuries.

An autopsy by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner determined that Bruce Traxler died by homicide and suffered multiple stab wounds to his chest and abdomen.


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