Funeral today for sister of missing TRF woman

The funeral for Jill Lappegaard, a sister of missing Thief River Falls woman Gina Anderson, will be held this morning, hours before a benefit to raise money to search for Anderson.

Jill Lappegaard, left, and her sisters, Gina Anderson, right, and Jackie Pagel, center, at Jackie's wedding a few years ago. A prayer service for Lappegaard will be held at 7 p.m. tonight in Trinity Lutheran Church, Thief River Falls. Her funeral is at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Meanwhile, Gina Anderson has been missing since Oct. 23.

The funeral for Jill Lappegaard, a sister of missing Thief River Falls woman Gina Anderson, will be held this morning, hours before a benefit to raise money to search for Anderson.

Lappegaard, 22, had been, like her parents and other sister, devoted to finding Anderson, who hasn't been seen or heard from since Oct. 23.

Driving on a snowy road in the early hours of Sunday, Lappegaard died in a one-car accident about nine miles southwest of Thief River Falls.

The double misfortune has struck not only this town of 8,500 but thousands of people across the region and country who have been following the news of Anderson's mysterious disappearance.

Anywhere in town, people can be heard talking about Lappegaard's sudden death and sympathizing with her family's grief.


Lappegaard's car went off Pennington County Road 7, which is 140th Street Northwest, about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, according to family members. She was found at 7:50 a.m. Sunday.

She is the youngest of three daughters of Judy and Steve Lappegaard and lived with them in their home here.

Her oldest sister, Gina, has been missing since she was last seen driving from her Thief River Falls home the afternoon of Oct. 23.

The middle sister, Jackie Pagel, 29, Minnetonka, Minn., said Tuesday Jill had devoted herself to the effort of finding Gina, especially working toward the benefit dinner and auction scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. today in the Eagles Club in Thief River Falls. "She was making lefse for the benefit," Pagel said, hardly able to contain her mourning. "She worked Monday through Wednesday last week at the Eagles Club making lefse. It was the first time she'd ever made lefse."

The money raised at the benefit will go toward the expenses in searching for Gina.

"She went from store to store getting donations for the auction," Pagel said today. "Jill was friendly to everybody. She was a people person; there wasn't anybody she wasn't friends with."

Jill Dawn Lappegaard was born Jan. 29, 1986, in Thief River Falls, to Steven and Judy (Thrane) Lappegaard. She was baptized and confirmed in Trinity Lutheran and now will be laid to rest in that congregation, which is led by the Rev. John Voelker.

The news of Jill's death came to people between worship services Sunday, Voelker said. "Everyone was asking about it," he said. When people got cell phone messages about the family Sunday, many figured Gina had been found, Voelker said. Instead, the news was worse.


State troopers were out Tuesday analyzing the scene; the sheriff's office released only very basic information.

Jill was driving to see a friend, Pagel said, when her car left the dark road, ending up in the north ditch. She was alone, not wearing a seat belt, was ejected and died at the scene.

Lappegaard graduated in 2004 from Lincoln High School and was working in customer service for Digi-Key in town, as well as two part-time jobs. She loved dancing, hunting, fishing, tubing and singing, her family said.

Pagel, 22 weeks pregnant with her second child, said Jill was godmother to her 2-year-old daughter. "She went by Auntie Jillie."

The family is devastated by loss of two sisters, two daughters.

"It's hard," Pagel said. "My dad's not doing too well. I have to try to figure out how to deal with my parents and helping them with this and still trying to find Gina and hoping not to have to plan another funeral."

No word or sign from Gina has come in since she last was seen driving away from her home where she lived with Jeremy, her husband of 13 years. The family, close anyway, spent even more time together since Gina disappeared.

"My brother-in-law and Jill were very close," Jackie said. "And she would stay at my sister Gina's house on the couch, just to keep Jeremy company, hang out with him, because he's been coming home to an empty house and nothing after 13 years of being married to Gina."


"Jill is not one of those people you could replace. She lit up a room, she was bubbly. She really was too young to have her life taken away."

The family has gotten a lot of help and is looking for anyone who knows something about Gina, or how to deal with a loved one going missing, Pagel said.

Linda Walker, mother of Dru Sjodin, the UND student from Pequot Lakes, Minn., abducted and killed five years ago, called Steve and Judy Lappegaard last week, Pagel said. Walker recommended they talk to Bob Heales, the private investigator who helped Dru Sjodin's family during the months of searching for her, and stayed as a friend through the trial of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., the Crookston man convicted and sentenced to death for her murder.

Pagel has been in contact with Heales. "He's been giving us a lot of advice on what to do in the investigation on Gina."

Gary Peterson, a Minnesota volunteer with Texas EquuSearch, met with Steve, Judy and Jill and Jeremy about a week ago to review the case and offer advice. With no clues, no leads, it's impossible to know which way to go with a search anymore, Pagel, as well as investigators, say. No evidence of foul play has turned up, according to investigators.

The family hopes the media attention, even around Jill's death, will help bring Gina back, "to see if Gina could possibly be out there," Pagel said.

She created a Web site, , and more than 100 people have left messages in the guest book on the site, offering condolences about Jill and Gina, Pagel said.

"It's overwhelming and heartwarming that people will care so much," Pagel said. "This just doesn't seem to be real. We just feel we haven't woken up from this horrible bad dream that has taken over our lives in the last two months now."

What To Read Next
Get Local