FAIRHAVEN, Minn. — On December 12, 1981, a crime rattled a small town outside of St. Cloud, so much so the people who live there are still afraid to talk about it 40 years later.
"It's like, that seems weird for Fairhaven, something so bad happened right there on the corner," said Carol Schmidt, who lived just down from the house where 81-year-old Myrtle Cole was murdered in her own home.
Long since torn down, a new house was built on the property where Cole lived. Old photos from the Stearns County Sheriff's Office show the front door, wide open and glass shattered on the floor.
At the time, Schmidt was a young mother said Cole mostly kept to herself.
"She'd walk down to the store for her groceries about once a week," Schmidt said. "We'd wave at each other and she'd say hi and that was about it."
Cole was a widow who lived alone, reportedly with no running water and relying only on Social Security. The sheriff's office said it was well-known she was fearful of someone breaking into her home.
There is an entire row of evidence boxes in the basement of the sheriff's office dedicated to the old case - full of clues, but no clear answers about who committed the crime.
"The only motivation that we can come up with is really a drug-induced, sexual violence, chaotic kind of killer," Lieutenant Vic Weiss told KARE11.
Lt. Weiss is the lead investigator into the cold case and said Cole was strangled and stabbed, a bloody palmprint left on a bedsheet. Over the years, it's been compared to thousands of other palmprints, including every time someone was brought into the local jail.
Hundreds of interviews have also been completed and still, no suspects.
"We know there are some people out there that have information that they're afraid to share," Lt. Weiss said, who thinks the suspect could be someone who lives locally.
"They're afraid of that person still being in the area," Lt. Weiss surmised.
Head out of town and it's hard to miss the new billboards detailing the case, Lt. Weiss said they are already bringing in useful tips. It also serves as a sobering reminder of the mystery that still haunts Fairhaven.
"We keep our doors locked at all times now," Schmidt said.
The lieutenant, though, said it's a case he's sure he'll solve and put to rest soon so Myrtle Cole can do the same.
"We have made what I would call progress on this case and some of our other cases," Lt. Weiss said. "I am genuinely confident we will solve this case."
Lt. Weiss is also hopeful because he just re-submitted evidence to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Crime labs have such advanced DNA technology now it could finally create a profile to match the killer.
If you know anything that could help investigators, the local CrimeStoppers is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and charging of a suspect.
Stearns County Sheriff’s Office: (320) 259-3700
Tri-County CrimeStoppers Tip Line: (800) 255-1301
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