Glenvil man arrested in shooting of Grand Island attorney

Authorities have charged a Glenvil man for the shooting death of a Grand Island lawyer outside his law office.

Michael L. Petersen, 58, was charged with first-degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony this morning in Hall County Court. He is being held without bond in the Hall County Department of Corrections.

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

His preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 21, 2014, at 1:30 p.m.

Petersen is accused of killing 52-year-old Todd Elsbernd on Wednesday. Authorities suspect Elsbernd was targeted.

Elsbernd is listed in court records as having represented a man named Michael L. Petersen in a 2002 divorce case involving a woman named Nancy Petersen.

A 58-year-old woman named Nancy Petersen was found shot to death Thursday in Buffalo County. Authorities have ruled the death as a homicide. Authorities say they are investigating whether the shootings are connected.

The Buffalo County Sheriff's Office says the death was not a random act, and preliminary evidence suggests she knew her assailant. Petersen's body was found Thursday morning near her home southwest of Kearney.

Authorities have ordered an autopsy on Petersen. The incident remains under investigation by law enforcement agencies.

Court records also show a 2009 case in which Michael L. Petersen sued Elsbernd for $57,300, alleging malpractice in his divorce case. Petersen couldn't call in at the time scheduled but failed to ask for a continuance. The judge dismissed the case, citing that the statute of limitations on the claim had expired.

Elsbernd was shot in the torso around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday as he was standing by a red truck parked outside his downtown law office. He was taken to St. Francis Medical Center, where he died.

Witnesses told police the shooter had been parked in a public parking lot near the scene for "a considerable length of time before the shooting," Grand Island Police Chief Steve Lamken said at a news conference Thursday morning.

Investigators believe the man shot Elsbernd with a rifle. Lamken said two shots were fired from the parking lot.

"The Police Department believes that this was not a random act and that Mr. Elsbernd was targeted by the suspect," Lamken said.

Hall County Attorney Mark Young, who also spoke at the news conference, described Elsbernd as a good lawyer and a caring person.

Young said his office will go after the shooter "with both barrels, regardless of who the victim is."

The downtown office houses several attorney offices — including the law firm of Bradley, Elsbernd, Andersen, Kneale & Mues Jankowitz — as well as the local offices for the FBI.
Elsbernd was a member of the Grand Island Public School Board. School district spokesman Jack Sheard said crisis teams were in place at Grand Island Senior High School and Barr Middle School, where two of Elsbernd's three sons attend classes.

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

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