Human remains identified as missing student

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“Our family will bring her home and lay her to rest,” writes a cousin of the 18-year-old who hadn’t been seen in nearly two weeks.    By  Star Tribune

 

OCTOBER 27, 2015 — 10:52AM

DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE, .Laura Ann Schwendemann, 18, a freshman at the University of Minnesota, Morris, had been missing since she was last seen Oct. 14.

  Human remains found in a western Minnesota farm field are those of a Minnesota college student missing for nearly two weeks, her family and its church community confirmed Tuesday.

Laura Ann Schwendemann, 18, a freshman at the University of Minnesota, Morris, who has lived in nearby Hancock and Starbuck, had been missing since she was last seen on the night of Oct 14 in Alexandria.

A farmer in Orange Township found the remains in a field he was harvesting Monday afternoon and called the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, according to Sheriff Troy Wolberson.

“We all prayed so hard for a much better outcome,” Beth Aaberg, an aunt of Schwendemann’s wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to the young woman. “We all wanted to find Laura safe … this wasn’t to be. … Laura Schwendemann was found today and our family will bring her home and lay her to rest.”

A vigil in Schwendemann’s memory is scheduled for Wednesday night in nearby Starbuck at Fron Lutheran Church, a church staff member said. The Schwendemanns belong to a sister church, Immanuel Lutheran, also in Starbuck. Pastor Paul Johnson, who serves both churches, will speak.

Douglas County authorities have confirmed that the remains belong to a woman in her late teens to early 20s, but they had not publicly released an identification as of late Tuesday morning.

In a statement Monday, the Sheriff’s Office said the investigation into Schwendemann’s disappearance is “still active and ongoing.”

Schwendemann’s fellow college students and others on campus received an e-mail Tuesday morning from Sandra Olson-Loy, vice chancellor for student affairs, that noted the news out of Douglas County, saying, “We are very saddened by this tragic loss and express our deepest sympathy to Laura’s family and friends. … We are keeping Laura’s family and friends in our hearts and our thoughts. This is a sad time for our campus and for our friends and neighbors in Starbuck.”

Olson-Loy went on to say that Schwendemann grew up in west-central Minnesota, attended Minnewaska High School in Pope County, took classes at Alexandria Technical and Community College and finished high school through the Runestone Regional Learning Center in Alexandria. At Minnesota, Morris, she lived off-campus and was majoring in management, with a focus on financial and organizational management.

For the past two weeks, more than a dozen law enforcement agencies have conducted extensive ground and air searches for the woman.

A car that Schwendemann rode in the night of her disappearance nearly two weeks ago has been located, and the person who was driving it has been speaking with investigators.

Despite ground and air searches, Schwendemann has been missing since she was last seen on the night of Oct. 14 in Alexandria about 9:30 p.m. at a Holiday gas station on 50th Avenue with “a male subject known to her,” according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office.

Schwendemann and the male left in a car with a loud exhaust and “investigators believe they traveled to unknown locations” throughout southern Douglas County and northern Pope County that night and into the next morning, the Sheriff’s Office statement continued.

The car has been located and the male with her has been speaking with investigators, but authorities have not revealed his name or said whether they believe he had a role in Schwendemann’s disappearance.

Investigators have said they do not believe Schwendemann “left voluntarily.”

Authorities said they are particularly interested in hearing from people who may have seen the car, a black 1997 Geo Prism, between 9:30 p.m. Oct. 14 and 10:30 the next morning.

Investigators also asked for help locating a home that the car was believed to have traveled past. It’s described as blue with a 3-foot-tall statue of a boy, with blue clothing and a red hat, positioned at the end of the home’s driveway.