Murder charge denied

GRAND ISLAND — A 58-year-old Glenvil man accused of murdering a Grand Island attorney pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Hall County District Court.

Michael L. Petersen faces charges of first-degree murder charge and using a firearm to commit a felony in the shooting death of Todd Elsbernd, 52, of Grand Island outside his office.

The murder charge has been filed as a Class 1 felony, making the crime punishable by the death penalty.

Petersen is being represented by Jeffrey Pickens, an attorney with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy. Pickens filed motions for discovery and deposition of witnesses, both of which were granted.

A tentative trial date has been set for May 12-16.

Petersen also faces murder charges in Buffalo County for the death of his ex-wife.

In that case, Petersen is charged with first-degree murder and using a firearm to commit a felony in the shooting death of Nancy Petersen, 58, at her home in rural Buffalo County.

First-degree murder is a Class 1A felony punishable by life in prison if convicted. Use of a firearm to commit a felony is a Class 1C felony punishable by 3-50 years in prison.

On Feb. 10, Petersen filed a written waiver of arraignment and entered a not guilty plea.

Petersen is being held without bond at the Hall County Department of Corrections.

Petersen reportedly told authorities that he had gone from his residence in rural Glenvil to his ex-wife's rural home southwest of Kearney about 10 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2013. He hid his pickup truck near the residence and walked closer, taking position near a tree. Petersen waited about three hours before using a rifle to shoot Nancy in the back.

Petersen then drove to Grand Island and parked in a public parking lot near Elsbernd's office.
When Elsbernd left the office about 6:30 p.m., Petersen shot him in the torso with a rifle.
Elsbernd was taken to St. Francis Medical Center, where he died.

Witnesses told police the shooter had been parked for a long time before the shooting.

The Petersens filed for divorce in 2002, and it was finalized in 2004. Elsbernd was Michael's attorney in the case. In 2009, Petersen sued Elsbernd for $57,300, alleging malpractice in the divorce case. A judge dismissed the case because the statute of limitations had expired on the claim.

Petersen was arrested Nov. 14, 2013, on J Street one mile east of Hastings. Police say he was armed but offered no resistance.

To read more, see Wednesday's Hastings Tribune or the Tribune e-edition.>>

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