Menahga murder-suicide has ties to Park Rapids
Editor's Note: A complicated tale is unfolding in Menahga. Four months after a shocking murder-suicide, investigators have broadened their probe into other counties and other people. This is the first of two articles, based on available public court records and interviews.
The Menahga Police Department and Wadena County Sheriff's Office have concluded their investigation into a murder-suicide that occurred last November.
But the case isn't over yet.
A continuing investigation remains a joint effort between the Cass County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Wisconsin.
In a Feb. 26 news release, Menahga Police Chief Scott Koennicke states the initial investigation "revealed a case composed of three parts: the conduct and events that led up to the shooting incident, the shooting itself and other matters discovered through the course of the ensuing investigation. It is a fluid process wherein all of the parts are intertwined, which has resulted in further investigation."
On Nov. 13, 2017, the Menahga Police Department, Sebeka Police Department, Wadena Police Department and Minnesota State Patrol responded to a "hysterical" 911 call at about 12:05 a.m.
Two bodies were discovered inside a Menahga residence on 814 Oak Avenue NE. They were identified as Michael J. Callahan, 67, and Carl Albin, 82.
The caller, Rebecca Shahin, was Callahan's girlfriend of four years.
According to a search warrant application filed by the Wadena County Sheriff's Office, Shahin reported that Callahan went to Albin's home around 6:45 p.m. on Nov. 12 to write a eulogy for Albin's longtime girlfriend, Olga Wilkowski. Wilkowski, 87, had died Nov. 8 at Green Pine Acres Nursing Home. A graveside service was scheduled for 3 p.m. Nov. 13 at Menahga City Cemetery.
When Callahan did not return home, Shahin drove to Albin's home. She found Callahan lying on the kitchen floor with a large hole in the top of his head. She called 911.
Law enforcement observed Albin lying on the garage floor with a gaping head wound, his thumb in the trigger guard.
Investigators searched Callahan's home, seizing client records from his insurance/financial advisor business, banking records, real estate records, deeds, tax forms, health care directives, wills, medical records and power of attorney documents. They found checkbooks "not in Callahan's name," a will for Albin and Wilkowski, plus numerous other records.
It was clear that Albin shot Callahan, then turned the gun on himself a few hours later.
"We pretty much know who did it," Koennicke said in a phone interview. "There is speculation as to what lead up to the shooting because we can't ask either of them."
While the Menahga Police Department's investigation is closed, they continue to cooperate with other agencies. "If they need anything from us, we give it to them," Koennicke said.
He has received several requests for information regarding people's files collected during the search of Callahan's residence. Koennicke calculates roughly 1,500 files were taken into custody.
"I would like to assure everyone their personal files are safely secured in evidence. On a case-by-case basis, people have been able to come in, view their file or make a few photocopies so that they can follow up on their own personal affairs. However, due to the amount of files and information involved, I would ask that only people with specific concerns or information regarding the case do so. The files, as a whole, will be released as soon as possible. Details on how that will be accomplished still need to be worked out and will obviously follow the course of the investigation," he said.
"Only time will tell how things may end, and that's an open timeframe dictated by information revealed throughout the investigation."
A quiet, gentle man
Albin grew up on a farm south of Menahga and graduated from Sebeka High School. "He loved the rigors of farm life and worked hard on the farm for all of his working life," according to his obituary.
He and Wilkowski were a couple for approximately 21 years. When Wilkowski's first husband passed away, Albin helped her with her farm. They eventually started dating. Neither had children.
Albin's will, dated Oct. 2015, named Wilkowski as sole beneficiary. In the event of Wilkowski's death, Callahan was listed as successor personal representative.
In January 2018, Albin's first cousins successfully petitioned the Ninth Judicial District Court to appoint Timothy J. Schwartz of Park Rapids as personal representative for the estate.
"Tim had a special place in his heart for Carl," said Brenda Schwartz, Tim's wife.
The men shared the same birthday and often celebrated together. Tim did handyman work for the elderly couple.
Brenda describes Carl as "such a big, quiet, gentle man. Wherever you saw Olga, you saw Carl and vice versa. They were always together."
The Schwartzes were not aware of Callahan's control over the couple's financial affairs.
"We had no clue. We'd never visited with them about their finances or anything like that," Brenda said.
After Olga's death, Callahan intervened when Carl went to make her funeral arrangements.
"Mike Callahan was there and he pretty much told Carl, 'It doesn't matter what you want. I'm in charge of this funeral.' We don't know why Carl let him. Maybe he was just in grief and shock," said Brenda.
Olga wanted a "simple, graveside service," she continued, "but they still wanted casket bearers and flowers and a bulletin printed. Callahan refused to let any of that take place. He completely bullied Carl that way."
On the evening of Nov. 12, Tim intended to stop by Carl's house to see how he was doing, recalled Brenda. "It got a little bit late and Tim had to get hunting stuff home, so he didn't stop by and that's when the murder-suicide was happening."
Carl was "laid-back" and "sweet," Brenda said. "That's what's so hard for all of us, as family and friends. What happened to push Carl — of all people — to do what he did?"
As a precaution, the Schwartzes have filed an inquiry into Callahan's estate "so if it is found that there was fraud, illegal activity or duress that opens up the avenue so the family could try to recover some funds."