Tag Archives: Minnesota BCA

The Unsolved Crime Behind Buried in Wolf Lake by Christine Husom

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

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Truth Be Told

One of the characters in my mystery thriller series, Detective Smoke Dawes, uses the expression, “Truth be told,” from time to time. He says it when he is about to make a personal confession, such as, “Truth be told, bad dreams sometimes scare me more than bad things in real life.” But he might also use it in an interview or interrogation to coax out an admission of guilt.

We encounter episodes of telling, thinking, and listening for truths countless times each day. I was at a book event this past week and a reporter from the local paper asked me questions about my qualifications, my writing, and a variety of subjects. One question he posed was if I thought it was honest for authors to write their books with other authors, i.e. Tom Clancy with . . . I think his point was, is it really a Tom Clancy book if another writer helps write it, perhaps does most of the writing? My reply was, “Sure, as long as they give the other author credit. What’s not honest is if you use–steal–what someone else has written and don’t give them credit.”

 The next day I took a class from a trained criminal investigator. He ran the Cold Case Division of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for many years and helped solve some big cases. He said, over and over, “Everybody lies.” A former FBI agent had said the same thing in another class I took. What did they mean? In addition to out and out lies suspects tell for obvious reasons, others lie because they are not telling the whole truth. Victims because they’re embarrassed, witnesses because they think they are telling you what you need to hear, what they think is important for the case.

 Victims sometimes have an irrational sense of guilt over what happened to them, or may have blocked out key facts. And when people witness a crime, it often happens very fast. One person may see the robber as a dark-skinned Latino man, age 35, five foot ten with thick wavy hair, and another will see that same person as a light-skinned Asian man, age 25, five foot six with short straight hair.

But they both see the most important identifier–a dragon tattoo that covers his entire left forearm. If the suspect turns out to be a dark-skinned Caucasian male, age 30, six feet with short thinning dark brown hair and the dragon tattoo, it doesn’t mean the witnesses meant to lie, but they did. And some people are very sure of what they saw, even when it’s not true.

 I think most of us have had conversations with people we’ve shared an experience with and later compared notes. While you’re talking, one of you will say, “That’s not the way I remember it,” or, “No, that’s not what happened.” And you’re so sure you’re right, but start to wonder if you aren’t, after all.

 I am an honest person, but admittedly have not always told “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Why not? For many reasons: I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by being brutally honest. I was embarrassed by something stupid I’d done and thought of a way to explain it so it didn’t seem as bad. No, not specifically a lie, but not the whole truth. I have not given information when I could have. Each instance burdened me to different degrees, and I’ve carried the weight of guilt.

 It’s usually pretty easy to tell when someone is lying and a good investigator will use that to his or her advantage. Like Abraham Lincoln said, “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.” I love that quote. It’s like the tangled web–it’s hard work to be deceitful.

 “The truth shall set you free,” John 8:32

Please share your thoughts. Thanks!

Christine Husom is the Second Wind Publishing author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar by the River

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It’s Not A Problem, It’s An Opportunity

“It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.” So my sister likes to say. But when I got notice from the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) that I needed to complete forty-eight continuing education credits in the next few months, it seemed like a problem.

We are in the middle of restructuring and moving our business. I am involved in a number of community and church projects. I have grandchildren to help care for, and a home to maintain. Spare time have I none. I haven’t even had a chance to work on my latest book for more than a few hours here and there in the last two months.

But wait. I have my mystery thriller series to think about, and taking some law enforcement courses would give me more current information and increase my knowledge base. Maybe it was an opportunity after all.

I checked the POST Board website for the list of approved upcoming courses. Most were one-day, eight hour classes for eight credits. I discovered I was interested in far more classes than I was required to take. After some deliberation, I narrowed it down to five, one-day classes and two, half-day classes.

My first class this past week was taught by a former Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Investigator and current law enforcement instructor. He wove stories from his career in with his impressive knowledge and experience base. I also talked to him about being a guest speaker at one of our Twin Cities Sisters in Crime meetings and he was very interested.

One of my classes upcoming is on Investigating Internet Related Criminal Offenses. A requirement is to bring a laptop computer, but I don’t have a laptop. Is that my sister whispering in my ear that this is the opportunity I’ve been looking for to buy one? And as disappointed as I was that Mayhem in the Midlands was cancelled, the refund money will make my purchase more doable.

Although I will probably never say, “It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity,” out loud, I guess saying it to myself from time to time doesn’t hurt.

 Christine Husom is the Second Wind Publishing author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar by the River.

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