BISMARCK, N.D. — A man accused of killing his 83-year-old mother and stealing her new car claimed Friday that he is innocent.
Dean Grenstiner, 47, has been charged with murder and felony theft in the death of his mother, Ann Grenstiner. She was found dead Tuesday in the bedroom of her Bismarck home, and authorities said Friday she died after suffering several blows to the head.
The murder charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole, said Lloyd Suhr, an assistant Burleigh County state's attorney.
Bismarck Police Lt. Robert Haas said Friday that Grenstiner, a Bismarck native who had lived in Florida and Missoula, Mont., had been living with his mother for more than a month. He did not have a job and had not worked for several years, Haas said.
Court records show Grenstiner has previous North Dakota convictions for felony sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl and for being an accomplice to theft.
South Central District Judge Thomas Schneider on Friday ordered Grenstiner held without bail.
During a brief first court appearance in Bismarck, Grenstiner said during questioning from Schneider that he was "not guilty." He requested an attorney at public expense. Grenstiner will make a formal plea later.
Authorities tracked signals for Grenstiner's cellphone and found him Wednesday outside a Salvation Army office in Moorhead, Minn. He was taken to the police station in neighboring Fargo, N.D., for questioning about the theft of his mother's new car, which police found near a Fargo bar.
Grenstiner was later arrested and charged with stealing the car. Burleigh County sheriff's deputies brought him to Bismarck on Friday morning.
Haas described Grenstiner as "compliant" and said authorities had wanted to tell him of his mother's death, and ask about when he last saw her. At the time, police did not know Grenstiner had taken his mother's car, Haas said.
"We wanted to speak to him to see if perhaps he had any information ... regarding who may have seen her, what condition she was in when he left the house," Haas said. "Basically, we started looking for him so that we could ask him questions leading up to the murder and afterward. We didn't focus on him, primarily, as a suspect."
Haas and Suhr said Grenstiner was charged in the slaying based on evidence the police discovered since Grenstiner's arrest for auto theft. The two men declined to describe that evidence.
Jerry Stein, a Bismarck police detective, testified in a hearing that Ann Grenstiner's body was discovered Tuesday afternoon by her niece, Marcia Schmidt.
Stein said Schmidt saw Grenstiner lying on her bed with "severe trauma" to the left side of her head. Stein also said there were spatters of blood in the kitchen.
Schmidt described Dean Grenstiner to police as a "very troubled young man" who hadn't been seen since he left to go to Minneapolis with another, unidentified individual. Haas described the man as an acquaintance of Dean Grenstiner's, and said he had stayed briefly at Ann Grenstiner's home.
Suhr said authorities did not have evidence that anyone else besides Dean Grenstiner was involved in Ann Grenstiner's slaying.