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Case of missing woman involves suspect’s stepmother

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By Sarah Smith

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Two weeks before James Schwartzbauer perished in his Lake Hattie home in May, Ramsey County authorities were re-opening Case No. 97-11392.

The missing person case involved the stepmother of Schwartzbauer’s accused killer, Fredrick Bachman.

Toni Bachman’s 1997 disappearance was a sensational story for Twin Cities residents, who mounted high profile campaigns to locate her. She was well known as a blogger and grief counselor.

Toni Ann Bachman, 38, was married to Norman Bachman, Fred’s father.

The 10-year-old marriage was crumbling, media accounts said, and she was planning on leaving Norman Bachman. She’d helped to raise his three sons during that decade, a family friend told the Enterprise.

She remains missing. Ramsey County considers her to be the victim of foul play, with her husband the chief suspect. Norman Bachman has refused to cooperate with the investigation, a Ramsey County spokesman said.

A search of the Bachman’s White Bear Township home found blood and tissue belonging to Toni Bachman, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in her missing person’s case.

Norman Bachman could not be reached for comment and has never been charged with her disappearance. Friends of Toni Bachman’s started numerous blogs and a Facebook page in efforts to get information on her whereabouts.

Ramsey County re-opened the cold case due to tips received when a Twin Cities television station aired a program on the 12th anniversary of her disappearance.

In 1997, computer listservs linked people via interest groups. Toni Bachman was a member of one listserv called Inner Circle that she allegedly joined after a miscarriage.

When Toni Bachman disappeared April 25, 1997, she had just posted this message on her listserv:

“I think Norm is coming home to fight again,” she indicated. “Only this time I mean FIGHT in a much bigger way. He is threatening me with stuff.”

Forty minutes later, she sent out another message advising that she couldn’t chat because her husband was home. “Love You! Toni. P.S. He’s staring at the screen too! I LOVE YOU!!!!”

It was unclear who the recipient of the message was, because Inner Circle was a grief support network with many members.

A website was set up to receive tips as to Toni Bachman’s whereabouts, but has since been shut down.

She also formed a website called Toni’s Angel Pages that garnered several awards. A note on that page indicates: “Toni was a blessing to many people around the world and continues to be one, even if she is no longer with us. If she has been a blessing to you, feel free to take a copy of her candle back to your own page and link it… to spread the word. There may yet be some kind of closure to this case! Also please visit the following sites devoted to ending violence against women.”

The site names other links for battered or abused women.

She was peripherally referred to in Fred Bachman’s initial hearing in Hubbard County.

Bachman’s attorney said if freed on bail, Bachman would be returning to his father because his stepmother was not around.

The family friend told the Enterprise that Fred’s brother, Norman Bachman III, lived at the Lake Hattie home around 2001, when James Schwartzbauer was operating a foster home for troubled youths. This was four years after Toni Bachman disappeared.

It was Norman III who allegedly recommended Fred Bachman stay at the rural Laporte home when Fred Bachman was experiencing some personal issues, the family friend said. Schwartzbauer took in the younger Bachman, who lived off and on at the residence for four years and was in the process of building his own home across the lake when Schwartzbauer died.

Fred Bachman is charged with Second degree Murder in the case, which is pending in Hubbard County District Court.

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ssmit

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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