The second book in the Winnebago County Mystery series, Buried in Wolf Lake, is based on an actual crime that happened in my home county in the mid 1990s. A dog brought home a woman’s dismembered arm he had found in a nearby lake. The victim was identified, and most of her body parts were found in the area over time. One was discovered by a pair of duck hunters as they walked through a swampy area. Since her body parts were scattered, were they dropped from a small plane flying over the area? Why would a person drive around the rural area, throwing body parts in different places?
The victim was an African American prostitute from a Twin Cities suburb. Prostitutes are often targets, and the circle of potential suspects is exponential. Had Ms. Bacon been in the area before she was killed and dismembered, or was her body brought there to be disposed of? Again, why? Was the area chosen for a specific reason, or was it a random choice?
Unsolved crimes trouble me. I think of the victim and wonder what thoughts were running through his or her head as something unthinkable was happening. Did she know the person who was hurting her? Was she a complete stranger? Did he even know what hit him? Did she experience sheer terror, or feel calm and hopeful things would be okay?
Then I think about the person or persons who committed the crimes. What motivation pushes someone to victimize another? I know there can be no true justice in this imperfect world, but the fairness factor that runs through my veins has trouble accepting that. I want to know what happened and why. Not for myself, but for the victim (if she is still alive) and for the victim’s loved ones.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Minnesota Department of Corrections, along with state law enforcement agencies, created a deck of cold case playing cards. These cards highlight 52 violent unsolved homicide, missing person, and unidentified remains cases that have occurred throughout Minnesota in the past fifty years. Their hope is that they will get tips and information to solve the cases.
According to the BCA’s website, “The BCA sent a request to more than 500 Minnesota law enforcement agencies, requesting nominations for cases to be featured on the cards. The BCA Cold Case Unit Review Board reviewed submissions and selected 52 cold cases to be featured in this initiative. Written permission and photographs were then collected from the families of victims, and the cards were assembled using victim photos and details of the investigation.
The card decks have been distributed to all 515 Minnesota police departments and sheriff offices, plus 75 county jail and annex facilities. In addition, over 10,000 decks have been supplied to Minnesota state prison inmates.
Sometimes people come forward with information years after an investigation has gone cold. Forensic evidence collected and preserved from crime scenes can be tested with modern methods to prove guilt or innocence in many of those cases. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough.
When I wrote Buried in Wolf Lake, although it is a fictional tale, I had a hope deep inside me that someone would read it, recognize the actual crime it was based on, and feel compelled to give some information about what really happened to Ms. Bacon. When I speak to groups, I talk about the actual crime, and the fact that I can’t stand unsolved crimes like hers. And maybe–just maybe–the person who did the unspeakable will someday open his mouth after all.
Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, And Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery