Attorney General’s Office secures another conviction in Cook County murder case

Jacob Johnson convicted by jury of two counts of 2nd-degree murder in June 2021 murder of Ricky Balsimo

Third defendant to be convicted in case AG’s office prosecuted after referral by and in partnership with Cook County Attorney

August 2, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that his office secured the conviction today of Jacob Colt Johnson on two charges of 2nd-degree murder in the death of Ricky Balsimo on June 20, 2021. This marks the third conviction of a defendant in the murder of Mr. Balsimo. 

Jacob Johnson shot and killed Mr. Balsimo in Saint Paul following a dispute while traveling in a vehicle. Following the shooting, Johnson transported Mr. Balsimo’s body to Superior, Wisconsin, where he enlisted the help of Robert Thomas West in concealing and dismembering Mr. Balsimo’s body. After Mr. Balsimo’s body was dismembered and placed in several buckets and a tote, West transported it to Grand Portage and dumped it into Lake Superior. Johnson claimed self-defense in the shooting. 

Sentencing for Johnson has been scheduled for September 11, 2023. Johnson faces separate charges in Wisconsin for Mutilating a Corpse as it relates to the dismemberment of Mr. Balsimo’s body in rural Douglas County, Wisconsin, and an unrelated charge of Possession of a Firearm. 

Two other defendants in the murder of Mr. Balsimo have already been convicted. On February 8, 2023, a Cook County jury convicted Robert Thomas West of one count of being an accessory after the fact to murder and one count of interference with a dead body. Criminal charges against West are still pending in Wisconsin. Sentencing for West on his Minnesota conviction is scheduled on August 29, 2023. Another defendant, Tommi Hintz, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding an offender after the fact. Sentencing for Hintz is scheduled for August 15, 2023.  

Attorney General Ellison’s office accepted and prosecuted the case upon the request of Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken under Minnesota Statutes Sec. 8.01, which provides, “Upon request of the county attorney, the attorney general shall appear in court in such criminal cases as the attorney general deems proper.” County Attorney Hicken worked closely with Assistant Attorney General Daniel Vlieger in this successful prosecution. The case was tried in a St. Louis County court. 

“My thoughts are once again today with the victim’s family, who have once again had to relive their loved one’s horrific murder. I hope this conviction of the third defendant in Mr. Balsimo’s murder brings them that much more of a sense accountability and one step closer to healing,” Attorney General Ellison said. 

“I’m very proud of the attorneys in the Attorney General’s Office, the Cook County Attorney’s Office, investigators, and law enforcement who brought this case to a successful conviction. I’m also proud of our partnerships with county attorneys who are on the front lines of delivering justice to victims and communities. We stand at the ready to assist them and look forward to doing more with the new resources for criminal prosecution and appeals that the Legislature and Governor Walz have granted my office,” Attorney General Ellison added.  

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Laboratories, the Douglas County, Wisconsin District Attorney’s Office, and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office all assisted in the investigation. Crossmon Consulting, a search-and-rescue operation, worked tirelessly and without charge to find Mr. Balsimo’s remains, along with St. Louis County Dive and Rescue.