NORTH DAKOTA COLLEGE FRESHMAN’S DEATH RULED A HOMICIDE: LIKE THE DRU SJODIN COLLEGE MURDER CASE, THE FEDS MAY HAVE JURISDICTION

The body of an 18-year-old North Dakota State University Freshman was found in an industrial area in Moorhead, MN this past Tuesday. Thomas Bearson (18) had been last seen on Saturday at a college party near his dorm in Fargo, ND. The Ramsey County, MN Medical Examiner’s Office (Located in St. Paul) has ruled the case a homicide possibly consisting of multiple wounds and injuries. No suspects are in custody and local, state and federal law enforcement officials are searching for clues; specifically police are searching for personal property believed to be in Bearson’s possession when last seen including an I-Phone 5 and a missing “left” Air Jordan tennis shoe, size 9 ½. Other than these general facts, the police are not providing specific details. While the police are taking the position that the homicide is not posing a general threat to the public, the St Paul Pioneer Press quoted at least one student at the University as saying “I think Fargo’s really safe” but “It does kind of raise my concerns”. The paper also quoted a Moorhead Police Lt. stating “I have no motive information”. Thomas Bearson was a star basketball player in his home town of Sartell, MN; he was the team Captain his senior year. He had only been at the campus for a few weeks at the time of his death. A Mass Christian Burial Service is scheduled for Bearson at the St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Sartell on September 29th at 11:00 a.m.

COMMENT: This case presents somewhat unusual details in that the victim was apparently last seen in North Dakota and his body was discovered in Minnesota (Fargo and Moorhead are right next to each other). Early reports do not disclose where the actual homicide occurred and it is unclear where jurisdiction would vest, Minnesota or North Dakota. Federal jurisdiction could apply if it is determined that Mr. Bearson was taken from North Dakota and killed in Minnesota. Another murder case, which originated in North Dakota and ended in death in Minnesota, involved 22-year old Dru Sjodin who went missing on November 22nd, 2003. Ms. Sjodin was kidnapped from a mall parking lot in Grand Forks, ND and killed in Minnesota by Alfonso Rodriguez (now 61). Her body was found in a ravine near Crookston, Minnesota 5 months after her disappearance. She also was a college student in North Dakota. Because she was kidnapped and transported across state lines before her murder, Rodriguez was tried in federal court where he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death on February 8th, 2007, the first death sentence imposed in North Dakota in a century. Minnesota and North Dakota do not have the death penalty in their state courts. He remains on death row today at a federal facility in Indiana.

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  1. UPDATE: This case has been quiet since Thomas Bearson’s body was found; police have not identified any suspects and are apparently waiting for medical examiner reports from St. Paul which may be released soon.

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