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No charges yet in human remains case near Bemidji

Eckles Township, Minn.1 / 2
Darren Stebe2 / 2

BEMIDJI — Although more than three months have passed since authorities found human remains in a residential fire pit just outside Bemidji, they have yet to file any criminal charges in the case.

Meanwhile, the man at the center of the investigation is behind bars.

Darren Stebe, 44, was arrested in early February in the wake of a missing person investigation.

The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement shortly thereafter saying Stebe likely would face charges related to the deaths of two people.

Since then, however, the Beltrami County Attorney’s Office has not charged Stebe, nor anyone else. County Attorney David Hanson said the reason is because they’re not pressed for time since their primary suspect is already incarcerated.

Authorities arrested Stebe during their investigation for violating the terms of his early release from a 2010 drug sentence. Stebe is incarcerated at the Minnesota Department of Corrections in Stillwater with an anticipated release date of May 2021.

“Our suspect is incarcerated,” Hanson said. “There isn’t the expediency that surrounds most cases… we have the luxury of time; we’re using that to make sure we have all of our investigatory pieces put together before (we) bring charges.”

Outside of that, Hanson declined to comment on any details from the case.

The investigation began in early February when the sheriff’s office received a missing person report regarding an individual who was traveling from the Twin Cities to Bemidji. The report indicated the person may have been traveling with a second person from the Duluth area.

Investigators found the person’s vehicle at the Palace Casino in Cass County on Feb. 4. Shortly thereafter, they arrested a person of interest — Stebe — for violating his early release. Investigators also encountered a second person of interest, although Stebe was the only one named by authorities.

That led investigators to a home in the 6500 block of State Highway 89 in Eckles Township, west of Bemidji.

“Both of the individuals were interviewed and further information was gathered throughout the evening that led investigators to believe a crime of violence had taken place at a residence where the two people of interest had resided together,” a release from the sheriff’s office said.

The release also said they found “what is believed to be the human remains of two people.” Officials later said they found the remains in a fire pit, and identified them as 39-year-old Adam Thorpe, of Maple Grove, Minn., and 41-year-old Jason McDonough, of the Superior, Wis., area.

Officials have not released any information regarding what may have started the altercation or how the parties came in contact with each other. However, Stebe allegedly knew one of the victims — McDonough — from a time when they both were incarcerated, according to a person who knew both men.

Once arrested in February, Stebe was briefly held in the Beltrami County Jail before he was transported to the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater.

Thorpe’s family could not be reached for comment. However, he was reportedly a former Twin Cities-based DJ.

McDonough’s family issued a brief statement expressing their loss.

“Jason always had a good heart and a gentle soul. He would help anyone, anytime. He loved his family and wasn’t afraid to express his love by always saying ‘I love you’ and giving you a hug. He will be missed by many,” Jamie Heytens-Nielsen said on behalf of McDonough’s family.