(Sherburn, MN) – A retired cop who’s been looking into a cold case killing in south central Minnesota says he truly believes he knows who the killer is and that person still lives in the area.
The body of 21-year-old hairdresser JoAnn Bontjes of Sherburn was found in the ditch of a rural road in Martin County on October 3, 1975. She had died of a gunshot wound to the head. Her vehicle had been found a day earlier on Highway 4 near Trimont, with the keys in the ignition and her shoes in the road.
In the more than 42 years since, no one has been charged.
But former St. James Police Chief Donavan Mickelson has launched his own investigation into the case and he is 99% sure he knows who the killer is and that person lives not far from the scene of the murder.
Mickelson says the alleged killer told a relative that he did it and he can’t sleep at night because of it. Mickelson says other family members of the man also know he was responsible and have told people that.
Mickelson says he’s passed his information on to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and to the County Attorney; and he and others have been pressing for Justice for Joann. There’s even been talk of possibly holding a rally at the courthouse.
In response, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office says the Bontjes case is one of its highest priorities and it says Mickelson’s theory is conjecture.
“We continue to follow up on all possible leads, and the investigation is ongoing, even to the extent of utilizing the newest DNA technology. Comments have been made that the suspect is known, but that is some individuals’ speculation, and not based on probable cause. We encourage anyone with factual evidence whether it is personal testimony or physical evidence to contact the Sheriff’s Office directly.”
Anyone with information on the Bontjes murder can contact the Martin County Sheriff’s Office at (507) 238-4481.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension can be reached via email at BCA.Coldcase@state.mn.us or by phone: 1-877-996-6222.
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Photos via MN BCA, Justice for JoAnn Bontjes & Minnesotalostnmissing.