Unknown Rachel Anthony Killer- Minnesota- 2001 Mar 13, 2017 2:01:34 GMT -5
Post by Scumhunter on Mar 13, 2017 2:01:34 GMT -5
(Above photo credit: brainerddispatch.com)
From the Duluth News-Tribune website (duluthnewstribune.com):
PINE RIVER, Minn. — Who killed Rachel Anthony?
That question has lingered in many minds over the past 16 years.
Anthony, 50, disappeared the night of Feb. 27, 2001, at the end of her shift at Ultimate Liquors in Pine River. It was bitterly cold and Anthony started her car to warm it up before her drive home. A police officer discovered the car idling about midnight and upon checking the liquor store, he found the back door unlocked with Anthony's purse and coat still inside, but no signs of her. Her body was found six weeks later in a ravine near Breezy Point, about 15 miles away off an infrequently traveled road.
Many leads were followed, possible suspects were ruled out and still today, there are no answers on who abducted and murdered Rachel Anthony.
The case remains an open investigation with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Cass County Sheriff's Office. Spotlight on Crime is offering up to $50,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for her death.
"While we can't share specific information about the ongoing investigation, we can say that we believe this case can be solved," the BCA stated. "We know someone has information that could help us solve this case. We investigate every tip we receive and urge anyone with information about what happened to Rachel Anthony to contact us."
"I still miss her," Anthony's daughter, Jessica Anthony, said in a telephone interview. Rachel Anthony was living with Jessica Anthony in rural Pequot Lakes before she was killed. Jessica Anthony now lives in Alabama.
"It sucks that nothing has come out of this as it has been 16 years," Anthony said of the case. "Every time we have a family function or are doing something we wish Mom was here with us. It's like when you are sick you want to call your mom. ... You just want your mom here with you."
Anthony said when her mother first disappeared and they found her body, she never thought it would take so long to find the person or persons who did it. She said then once it got to be 10 years after the incident, she wondered and still does if anything will come up.
Anthony said she put a poster on her mother's homicide on Facebook on Feb. 22 and asked people to share it to "try to stir something up." She said it got almost 1,000 shares. Jessica Anthony said she has mixed feelings about her mother's homicide when it comes to the public.
"I want people to know it is still unsolved, but it reminds me of everything," Anthony said. "It's like a double-edged sword. People started sending me messages and it brought back a lot of bad memories, but I still want people to know that this case is still unsolved.
"(People I know) are afraid to talk to me about my mom because they don't want me to cry. Well, it's 16 years later and I am not afraid to talk about it. The more people who know the case, the better it will be and hopefully will help solve this case."
A bitter night
Today, the mystery of what happened to Rachel Anthony still haunts investigators who worked the case. It's still on the minds of David Bjerga, who was a BCA agent in Brainerd, and Mike Diekmann, a former Cass County Sheriff's Office investigator. Both retired more than five years ago.
"I will never forget that night," Diekmann said. "It was a Monday night and it was so cold out."
The town of less than 1,000 people was quiet, especially so with the thermometer bottoming out at 19 degrees below.
After working alone at Ultimate Liquors, Anthony prepared to close the store and went outside to start her Ford Escort parked in front of the building.
Pine River Police Officer Shawn Bennett was on patrol that night. Diekmann said Bennett saw the Escort running around 10 p.m., which was closing time and continued on patrol. Hours later, around midnight, the officer saw Anthony's car was still running in front of the business.
"He stopped to do a welfare check, but she wasn't there," Bjerga said. "Her purse, glasses and coat were in the store.
"The back door was unlocked and it looked like she took the garbage out and encountered someone, but we don't know that. The parking lot was glare ice, so there were no tire tracks. That hurt us as there was not much evidence forensically there."
No merchandise appeared to be taken and no cash was missing from the register. There was no sign of a struggle inside or outside of the store. The store was equipped with security cameras, but they were not recording that night.
With the evidence at hand, investigators suspected Anthony had been taken from the store against her will. The BCA was called and the command center was set up.
"The liquor store became a crime scene," Diekmann said. "The wind was blowing all over the place and I remember not even a car on the street that night."
Anthony's daughter Jessica was the first person called as she lived with her. Investigators found out what happened during the day leading to Anthony's disappearance and if the daughter knew if there was anyone who wanted to harm her mother. Background checks were made and authorities checked out the daughter's alibi, as well as others close to Rachel Anthony, including her ex-husband, who was living in Princeton.
"We needed to see who was in town and had to check alibis," Diekmann said. "Like all investigations, we look at the people closest to the victim, but nothing panned out and possible suspects were eliminated."
Investigators looked at who was traveling along Highway 371 that night; viewed receipts from the liquor store and what type of alcohol was purchased. All the people who made purchases from the liquor store during her shift were cooperative and were eliminated as suspects.
The last purchase rung up by Anthony that night was at 9:56 p.m. and the transaction was never completed—a purchase investigators believe was the killer.
"We checked to see if she had any issues that day with people at the liquor store with customers," Bjerga said. "There were a couple of people known to law enforcement who she had words with, but nothing to the point where someone would want to bring harm to her."
While investigators and agents looked for clues, extensive searches were ongoing in Pine River and the surrounding area by air and land to find Anthony. Neighborhoods were canvassed, but still no signs of Anthony.
"This person or persons who took Rachel had the right time and the right conditions to take her," Diekmann said, as there was no one around and it was dark and cold outside.
Tips were pouring in and even if authorities didn't think the tips made sense, they still followed up, Bjerga said. Callers informed authorities of "good spots to hide a body" or named a person who she may have had a "run-in with." People thought they saw her at a casino or provided a tip stating there was a "weird guy at work" who may have done it.
"Things just didn't make sense," Bjerga said on some of the tips. "It didn't make sense that she would go outside without her coat and purse. It came down to her relationships. The folks she knew, who she was intimate with. We found these folks, but they were eliminated because it wasn't them."
The tips to authorities never panned out.
"We still didn't have Rachel," Bjerga said.
Until six weeks later—April 13, 2001. Anthony's body was found in a ditch off Nelson Road in Breezy Point by four horseback riders, who were in their teens. The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia due to homicidal violence.
One of the horseback riders was age 14. Today, this woman, who did not want to be identified, said seeing the body still haunts her, even after all these years. The friends were trail riding that April day and when one of the riders looked down and thought they saw something deep down in the ditch.
"We glanced down there and she was facing the other way and it looked like it had been down there for some time," she said. "It definitely startled us. And I was like if it is a body I was going to get the hell out of there. One of the friends got off his horse and leaned over the ditch for a closer look and realized it was not someone who was passed out. I was like 'Oh my gosh, this is not happening.' I hightailed it back to the barn and called 911. The others stayed there and called 911 too."
The woman said she went back to the scene to talk to investigators and learned the body was Rachel Anthony.
"I knew her story but it didn't cross my mind that it was her," the woman said. "The way her hair was woven into the ground, I thought it was a man at first."
A local suspect?
The woman said it's frustrating to have a cold case so close to home, wondering if the same thing could happen to her or someone she knows.
"Having this happen in such a small town is unnerving," she said. "It's one of those things you wonder, why did someone abduct her in Pine River? Then why would they dump her body there (Breezy Point?) Did this person know the area?"
Bjerga said it appeared the killer threw her body over the high packed snowbank off the road and into the ditch, which was about 30-40 feet down. He said with the snow melting and the elevation of the horseback riders, it helped in sighting the body, as well as them traveling at a much slower speed.
"Whoever did this was extremely lucky," Bjerga said. "This is just another indication that the person who did this was from this area. No one from out of this area would even know about this road. This is a back road between Pequot Lakes and Breezy Point and only someone from this area would be able to find this road."
Bjerga said once the body was found, investigators dug more deeply into the investigation.
"This opened up a whole new group of possible suspects," Bjerga said. "They could be from Breezy Point, Jenkins, Pequot Lakes. ... We already believed that whoever did it was from around here and after finding the body here, it reconfirmed it.
"Why this particular road? There is no reason for out-of-towners to be here. How would they find this particular road? If it was someone from out of town, you have the main highway (Highway 371) to leave town."
Bjerga said, in his opinion, someone saw an opportunity where a woman was working alone and abducted her. Bjerga said this suspect had to either have a weapon to lure the woman out of the liquor store or had another person with them to abduct her. He said it would be tough for someone to abduct someone without help.
"It would be hard to convince Rachel to go with someone without her belongings with the winter conditions out there and leaving the back door unlocked," Bjerga said. "It doesn't appear she was killed in that area (the liquor store) so there has to be another crime scene out there."
Diekmann said the way the body was found, authorities don't have an exact time of death, but believe it was right after her abduction. He said it would be too tough for the killer or killers to keep Anthony somewhere without getting caught.
"I have great hopes today that somebody who reads this sees and remembers something else that will give the now investigators a link to follow up," Diekmann said. "Time has a way of healing itself. Somebody who may know something may say, 'Enough is enough, I've been carrying this burden for so long and here's the information I have.' I believe there is someone out there who actually knows something and hopefully they will come forward."
The trouble with cold cases is they are draining on agencies, as it is hard to keep up the momentum, Bjerga said. Investigators and agents have lots of cases they work on and there are never enough resources, he said. However, whenever a tip comes it is followed up and the agents are always working on it one way or another.
"It's frustrating," Bjerga said on not being able to find out what happened to Anthony. "You could be interacting with someone who did this and you don't know when you work on a case like this in a small town and people talk and there is a lot of suspicion and not everyone knows their neighbor.
"I still have friends in this area and people still ask who killed Rachel Anthony. There is no closure to this. ... It is frustrating to think this person is still living their life and all she was doing was her job."
Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch, who was the chief deputy at the time of Anthony's abduction, said authorities gathered every piece of evidence they could on the case. Burch said every tip is followed up and with the new technology, he hopes it will help solve the homicide.
"This is really hard on the family, the community and the investigators who have had to deal with this for all these years," Burch said. "We hope that by people reading this story that it will bring some light on the case. The person, persons responsible for this need to be held accountable and we are committed on resolving this case.
"This was a terrible crime ... Every time my phone rings I hope it is something where we can pounce on someone. The reward is there and we need the person responsible to do the right thing. The family needs closure."
Diekmann said every piece of information supplied on the case is a piece of the puzzle. Authorities need the remaining pieces of the puzzle to solve the mystery. Someone has to know something about the case, Diekmann said, and he encourages them to come forward.
"Any death investigation is challenging," the BCA stated. "While the passage of time adds to those challenges it doesn't lesson investigators' interest in getting to the truth about what happened. And, new scientific and investigative techniques are being developed every year that can shed new light on older unsolved cases."
Call with a tip
Tipsters are asked to contact law enforcement with any information about the case, regardless of how relevant it might be. Contact the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension be emailing email@example.com or calling 877-996-6222. Tips also can be called into the Cass County Sheriff's Office at (218) 547-1424 or (800) 450-2677.
Thoughts? One thing I always say I get frustrated by on online sleuths (And we are kind of a sleuthing site as well) is how every unsolved murder posters try to connect to now deceased serial killer Israel Keyes. However, I do wonder if this angle was ever looked at by authorities since even my normal skeptical self sees some similarities here. For those who don't know, Keyes was believed to have abducted and murdered several women across the United States, including many Northwestern states from the late 1990s until his arrest in 2012. His arrest finally came after the murder of Samantha Koenig in Alaska in 2012. She was a barista who was abducted and murdered towards the end of her shift. It was what blew other cases wide open and what led the FBI to find what they believed was his involvement in other crimes. Keyes committed suicide in prison in December of 2012 while awaiting trial.
I find it a possible angle since there are some similarities- Anthony- although a different type of business- was also believed to be abducted and murdered at the end of her shift. Keyes also was said to be living in Washington State from 1998-2001, depending on where in Washington he was (he was said to be living at McChord Air Force Base which would be a really long drive to Pine River (almost a full day) from what I deduced on Google Maps- but he was also discharged from there in 2001 as well.)
This is just a theory I want to throw out there since I feel it makes sense somewhat, but of course what most important is hoping authorities solve Rachel's murder no matter who the suspect turns out to be.
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