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New murder charges for suspect in grisly Thief River Falls stabbing

Jedidiah Dean Troxel

Jedidiah Troxel appeared Monday in a Thief River Falls courtroom on new charges that could put him in prison for life if he is convicted in the stabbing death of Tanya Kazmierczak.

Her body was found the morning of Aug. 26 near a rural bridge over the Red Lake River about 6 miles southeast of the city.

She never returned home from an all-night party that ended early Aug. 25. Investigators said she last was seen alive talking to Troxel.

The 32-year-old from Crookston has been in the Pennington County jail in Thief River Falls since his arrest Aug. 27 on second-degree murder charges.

But his charges were jacked up Friday by a grand jury to three counts of first-degree murder involving criminal sexual conduct. The first count included inflicting the fear of bodily harm on Kazmierczak, the second included actual physical injury and the third alleges he did it with a dangerous weapon.

A conviction on any of the three counts carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, said Pennington County Attorney Alan Rogalla. He's being assisted in the case by an assistant attorney general, which is typical in first-degree murder cases in Minnesota district courts.

Troxel, represented by public defender Kip Fontaine, did not enter a plea Monday but he's scheduled for a plea hearing Jan. 7, Rogalla said.

Troxel remains in jail under a $2.5 million bond.

Rogalla said Kazmierczak's relatives attended Monday's hearing.

Kazmierczak, who grew up in Crookston and resided in Thief River Falls, had turned 40 only days before the party. Witnesses said she and Troxel both left in the early morning hours. Others said they saw his little purple car near the Smiley Bridge an hour or so after he was seen leaving.

Kazmierczak's body was found below the bridge, her body partially unclothed with several stab wounds and her throat cut.

Investigators said Troxel told them he was not at the Smiley Bridge even though they hadn't yet mentioned where her body was found, according to the court complaint. When they told him they found a footprint with the distinctive pattern of his work boots under the body, he denied wearing the boots the night of the party. Security video from a liquor store he visited before the party showed he was wearing the boots.

Troxel was convicted of drug charges in 2006 in Roseau County, and of theft-related charges in 2008 in Pennington County.