La Crosse homicide suspect appears in court Monday

Karvel Freeman is one of two suspects in January’s shooting death of Ernest Knox.
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 2:32 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - One of two suspects in a homicide investigation in La Crosse appeared in La Crosse County Circuit Court Monday.

35-year-old Karvel Freeman of Madison was returned on warrant after being arrested in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on March 9.

Judge Ramona Gonzalez set a cash bond of $500,000 for Freeman, which the prosecution requested due to there being a “strong incentive to flee” with the case. Freeman’s attorney Eric Pangburn asked for a bond of $5-$10,000, but Gonzalez was concerned about Freeman not appearing in court if the lower amount was posted.

According to online court records, Freeman faces charges of 1st-degree intentional homicide and 2nd-degree recklessly endangering safety for the shooting death of Ernest Knox on Jan. 8 in La Crosse. Another suspect, 25-year-old Nelson Brown of Rockford, Ill., is still at large and faces the same charges as Freeman as well as felony charges of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon and bail jumping. A release from the La Crosse Police Department in March said Brown should be considered armed and dangerous and to not approach or attempt contact with him.

On Jan. 8, a La Crosse Police Department officer was nearby when he heard gunshots on the 700 block of Rose Street on La Crosse’s Lower North Side at 2:27 a.m., according to court documents. When officers came to the scene they found a man who had been shot in the chest and wasn’t moving, Ernest Knox. Knox died less than an hour later at Gundersen Hospital, according to the criminal complaint. An autopsy confirmed the cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the chest. One witness said they believed Knox was shot from three or four feet away.

According to the criminal complaint, police found a driver’s license at the scene belonging to Karvel Freeman, and investigators learned he had been shot in the leg. Freeman sought treatment in Madison later on the morning of the shooting. Witnesses reported hearing multiple gunshots and that two people had been shot after an argument during a party in an apartment. A witness said Knox was trying to calm down Freeman before the shooting happened, noticing that Freeman tapped Brown on the hip as what the witness believed to be a signal to shoot. The witness said he “possibly” saw a third gun other than the ones Freeman and Brown were holding through a doorway.

Another witness said that Freeman’s behavior seemed “off” while another said Freeman was “acting crazy” that night. A third witness said that Freeman had a state that ‘intimidated him.’ Multiple witnesses said that Knox was attempting to deescalate the situation, which was in part caused by Freeman knocking over an item in the apartment and refusing to pick it up. Another witness said Freeman was upset over someone at the party telling his wife that another woman was dancing on him.

A police officer saw Freeman and Brown flee with a third person in a black SUV, and also saw three people running from the back of the building on foot.

Knox was 36 years old at the time of his death, which remains under investigation.

A preliminary hearing for Freeman is scheduled for April 5 at 11 a.m. in La Crosse County Circuit Court. The terms of bond can be renegotiated that day if the defense so chooses.

The La Crosse Police Department asks that if you have any information about the other suspect in the homicide investigation, Nelson Brown, and his location, to contact the Police Department at 608-782-7575. Tips can anonymously be provided to the La Crosse Area Crime Stoppers at 608-784-TIPS (8477) or online at You can also download the Crime Stoppers App “P3″ to submit a tip via your mobile device.

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