Rea convicted for 1983 Minneapolis murder
A Hennepin County District Court judge found Darrell Rea guilty of the 1983 murder of a young woman, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday.
Rea, 64, of St. Louis Park was convicted of second-degree murder for the April 2, 1983 death of 17-year-old Laurie Mesedahl in north Minneapolis. A hearing has been set for May 6 to schedule his sentencing date. Rea is subject to the criminal penalties according to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines in 1983. That would be 10 years in prison.
The case was heard without a jury by Hennepin County District Court Judge Tamara Garcia last month. She filed the guilty verdict Wednesday and will later file written findings.
When Mesedahl’s body was found in the Soo Line Railroad yard near 28th Avenue North, there was no DNA technology for police investigators. Nonetheless, the Minneapolis police detectives preserved her bloody clothes and semen samples taken during her autopsy.
According to the criminal complaint and evidence submitted to the judge, Mesedahl was at a party the night of April 1, but was home by 2:30 a.m. the next day, before slipping out of the house again within a half hour. She knocked on the door of a friend’s house about 3 a.m but was not allowed inside. The home at 32nd and Bryant Avenues North was not far from where her body was found.
The autopsy and police investigations suggested Mesedahl was raped, strangled to unconsciousness, driven to the train yard, dragged to an area between two sets of train tracks and beaten to death.
Solving Mesedahl’s murder was linked to developments in another similar case under investigation. In 1988, a woman 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, giving police a suspect in her death.
In 2015, police arrested Rea and questioned him about Mesedahl’s death. He was released without charges. But the continuing investigation led to enough evidence to file the charges in September 2017.