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Christopher Bjorke, Forum Communications, Published August 28 2012

Thief River Falls murder suspect’s story unravels

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. – Tanya Kazmierczak was last seen alive talking to Jedidiah Dean Troxel after a party, witnesses say.

According to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, Kazmierczak, 40, was found dead the next day with multiple stab wounds and a cut throat.

Authorities have linked Troxel, 31, of Crookston, to the spot next to the Red Lake River in rural Pennington County where a resident found Kazmierczak’s body Sunday. Agents with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrested Troxel on Monday night without incident.

He has been charged with second-degree murder and is in jail in Thief River Falls, awaiting his arraignment early today.

According to the complaint, he killed Kazmierczak after they both left a party early Saturday morning.

Kazmierczak was the mother of three children and was originally from Crookston, according to her obituary. Earlier this month, she turned 40 and celebrated her 20th anniversary with her husband, Jeffrey.

Her failure to return home that day led her husband to report her missing and prompted a search of the surrounding area. Interviews with fellow partygoers led investigators to single out Troxel as a suspect, whose story unraveled after several interviews.

According to Troxel’s Facebook page, he was looking for a party Friday.

“Whos up for partying?” read a post attributed to him on his profile on the social networking website.

On Sunday, the image of a flier asking for information regarding Kazmierczak’s disappearance was posted on his Facebook page, again attributed to him.

Troxel and Kazmierczak were linked as friends on Facebook. Later that night they were at the same party in Thief River Falls, according to a statement of probable cause for his arrest.

The statement, released Tuesday by Pennington County Sheriff Ray Kuznia, detailed the steps that led to Troxel’s arrest:

Troxel told authorities he saw Kazmierczak leave the party with another woman five minutes before he left to return to his mother’s home in Crookston.

Witnesses, however, told authorities they saw Kazmierczak talking to Troxel while he was in his car after they both left the party, between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.

In a second interview Saturday, in Crookston, Troxel repeated that he left the party five minutes after Kazmierczak, adding that he stopped at the Pennington Main store to buy a bottle of Mountain Dew before leaving town.

On Sunday, Thief River Falls Deputy Police Chief Craig Mattson watched surveillance video from Pennington Main that showed Troxel did not visit the store between 5:30 a.m. and 7:45 a.m. Saturday.

At 11:30 a.m., a “concerned citizen” found Kazmierczak next to the Smiley Bridge on Pennington County Road 7, according to the sheriff’s department. BCA crime scene investigators reported that she was partially nude. She had been stabbed and her throat was cut. They also found a “unique footprint” with a specific logo in the earth beneath her body.

A preliminary autopsy found multiple stab wounds and ruled her death a homicide.

Investigators met with Troxel in Crookston on Sunday. During that meeting, they took Troxel’s boots and found their tread was similar to the footprint at the crime scene.

Troxel repeated that he did not see Kazmierczak after the party, but investigators pressed him, telling him of the similarity between his boots and the footprint.

He told them, “I was not at Smiley Bridge.”

Authorities had not told him yet she was found at the bridge.

Troxel also claimed he wore tennis shoes, not work boots to the Friday party. However, surveillance video of Troxel at a Thief River Falls liquor store that night showed him wearing black boots.

Authorities received two reports Monday from area residents who said they saw a car at the boat landing next to the crime scene between 6:45 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. Saturday. One report described a car that matched Troxel’s; the other could not identify the vehicle’s type.

Troxel will make his first appearance in Minnesota District Court this morning.

According to Minnesota court records, Troxel has been convicted of two felony counts of selling drugs and was sentenced in 2008 to two years in prison but was given 15 years of supervised probation instead.

Christopher Bjorke writes for the Grand Forks Herald

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