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Danielle Cintron, Published June 28 2011

Murder victim's family: It’s time to move on

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. – After six months searching for the remains of her murdered son, Mary Lou Ueland and family have decided to hold a memorial service despite the police’s continued efforts to recover the body.

“We’ve just sort of given up,” said Ueland, the mother of former North Dakota State University researcher Kurt Johnson. “They may never find his body. We’ve been delaying this for six months now. It’s time.”

Johnson, of Cooperstown, was last seen alive on New Year’s Eve.

On Jan. 4, Johnson’s severed head was discovered in the basement of Daniel Wacht, who was then arrested and charged with murdering Johnson.

Wacht pleaded not guilty to the charge May 27.

“We just felt we had to go ahead with the memorial service,” Ueland said Monday. “They’ve been taking too long to find the rest of his body.”

The memorial service, which will celebrate Johnson’s life, will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in Lunde Tabernacle at the Cooperstown Bible Camp.

“We’re having a complete service with music and our pastor,” Ueland said. “There are a lot of family and friends who plan on attending.”

Despite the family’s readiness to move ahead, the Griggs County Sheriff’s Office will continue efforts to find Johnson’s remains.

“Yes, Johnson has been confirmed dead,” said Chief Deputy Terry Gray. “We are still looking for the body, and if anyone has any leads, we’d ask for them to contact us.”

Sheriff Robert Hook has previously said investigators think Wacht drove his 1995 red GMC Safari van to the Crosby, Minn., area on Jan. 4, going south and east on state highways or secondary county roads.

Hook also said Wacht then allegedly returned to Cooperstown by way of U.S. Highway 10 and the Fargo-Moorhead metro area.

Authorities have previously asked people to keep an eye open for any plastic trash bags near those routes.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Griggs County Sheriff’s Office at (701) 797-2202.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Danielle Cintron at (701) 235-7311