Man charged with 1983 murder of Laurie Mesedahl

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

It took 34 years, but Wednesday afternoon, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman was able to announce a second-degree murder charge against Darrell Rea.

Rea, 62, of St. Louis Park, is charged with the murder of 17-year-old Laurie Mesedahl in April 1983 in north Minneapolis. He is expected to make his first court appearance Friday.

“We are here today to announce the charging of Darrell Rea…because of DNA and because of some really hard, consistent police work,” Freeman said.

When her body was found in the late morning of April 2, 1983 in the Soo Line Railroad yard near 28th Avenue North, there was no DNA technology, Freeman said. But her bloody clothes were collected as evidence, as were semen samples taken during her autopsy and all were preserved.

“If you commit a homicide, it is never over,” Freeman said. “There is no statute of limitations and rightfully so.”

According to the criminal complaint, Mesedahl was at a party the night of April 1, but was home by 2:30 a.m. on the second, but then slipped out of the house again within a half hour and knocked on the door of a friend’s house about 3 a.m. The home at 32nd and Bryant Avenues North was not far from where her body was found and she was not allowed in by the adult in the house.

The autopsy and police investigations indicated Mesedahl was raped, choked to unconsciousness, driven to the train yard, dragged to an area between two sets of train tracks and beaten to death.

To her group of friends, including Sue Baker, it seemed as though the case was forgotten.

However, Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Erick Fors said the investigators never gave up.

“This is a good example of how we never give up,” Fors said. “Our detectives are always working on these cases. Sgt. Chris Karakostas was extremely diligent and determined and continued to dig and find evidence. I would also like to recognize the numerous homicide detectives who have worked this case, both present and retired.

A first small break in the case came in 1993. In 1988, a prostitute in Minneapolis was picked up by a man who raped her, strangled her and assaulted her with a sharp object. She managed to escape and some of the man’s blood was on her clothes. In 1993, the relatively new DNA technology was used on the sample of that blood and it matched Rea’s profile. While the statute of limitations had run on that assault case and he could not be charged, police now had his DNA.

In 2013, as part of its cold case investigations, police asked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigations to run the semen sample taken from Mesedahl’s body. It eventually was matched to Rea, according to the criminal complaint, giving police a suspect in her death.

In 2015, police arrested Rea and questioned him about Mesedahl’s death. He was released without charges, the complaint states. But the continuing investigation led to enough evidence to file the charges Monday.

Mesedahl’s friend, Baker, thanked police and the county attorney for bringing about a result her friends had been awaiting for more than 34 years, although not soon enough for Mesedahl’s late parents.

“She was an All-American 17-year-old girl,” Baker said. “She was free-spirited, always a smile on her face and she made us laugh. Laurie hasn’t suffered these last 34 years. We, her family and friends, have.”

Criminal Complaint (PDF)