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News & Press: MCAA Announcements

Sheriff Opens Cold Case For Swedell

Thursday, February 8, 2018  
Posted by: Laura Fenstermaker
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From Stillwater Gazette

“Imagine 30 years without knowing what happened to your loved one,” said Christine Swedell. “It is beyond heartbreaking and it carries a crushing pain that only evolves as years go by.”

Lake Elmo resident Susan Swedell was 19 years old at the time of her disappearance Jan. 19, 1988. She left her job at K-Mart in Oak Park Heights and stopped at a gas station in Lake Elmo on the corner of Manning Ave. and County Road 14.

She was having car troubles, so she asked the gas station attendant if she could leave her vehicle there. She then got into another vehicle driven by an unknown man. The man was described as unshaven, tall with curly shoulder length hair wearing a leather jacket.


“Life for many of our family members became difficult to understand without her,” said Christine Swedell, her sister. “Grandparents, aunts and uncles all passed away with only one wish - to know what happened to Sue.”

The three decades that have passed since Susan Swedell went missing have been hard for her family and friends.

“My precious sister Sue was and always will be one of the most important persons in my life,” Christine Swedell said. “It feels like a living hell without her. I can still feel the touch of her hand, hear her soft spoken voice, hear her laughs — all the while someone out there knows what happened to my dear Sue.”

A new generation of investigators have picked up Susan Swedell’s case.

“My first initiative when taking office last year was to have a team of investigators take a look at Susan’s case and from there created a cold case unit,” Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry said at a Jan. 19 press conference.

The cold case unit, Starry said, is a collaborative team with members of the Washington County Sheriff’s office, Attorney’s office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

“The cold case unit has and will continue to review all aspects of the case, which they have so far done 25 interviews with many more to come,” Starry said. “Someone out there knows the whereabouts of Susan. We are determined to find Susan. We are determined to find a resolution for the family.”

As part of the efforts to find information about Swedell, flyers, billboards and social media have been employed across the state to “share Susan’s story,” Starry said. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information that brings closure to the case.

Starry said that between 10 and 20 tips have come into the sheriff’s office in the last two weeks.

“It’s about that public awareness that we want to keep getting out there,” Starry said.

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said that he was glad when he heard Starry was putting together a cold case unit to look for Swedell.


“As a citizen, I feel really grateful that someone in law enforcement is going to continue to seek justice, regardless for time, regardless of difficulty, regardless of how perplexing it might look,” Orput said. “We are not letting go of any of these cases — we are going to seek justice if it takes our entire careers.”

New technologies in forensic sciences and record collections will also be used in the investigation.

“We don’t only look at it five years after, 10 years after, but we’re constantly evaluating advances in DNA technology,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans.

“We are encouraged and hopeful that we will get some information about Susan and to bring her home,” Starry said.

Persons with information about Susan Swedell and her disappearance can call the sheriff’s tip line at 651-430-7850.

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