Are we risking our lives by going shopping? When I first thought about the likelihood and frequency of this, I assumed it was pretty rare. After spending time researching this unimaginable crime, it turns out, I was right. It is indeed rare. Even rarer? A stranger abduction and murder at a shopping mall. Even rarer than that? A stranger abduction and murder at a shopping mall in Minnesota. I found 4 cases (including Anne Dunlap) with a Minnesota connection between 1995 and 2012 (yes, only 4 cases in 17 years) to review. One of the examples is a bit of a stretch since it is linked to a gas station/convenience store, not a shopping mall. Let’s analyze and compare the cases of Anne Dunlap (1995), Katie Poirer (1999), Dru Sjodin (2003), and Kira Steger (2012), all from Minnesota, and all murdered with a link to a shopping mall (and one convenience store).
Anne Dunlap was murdered on December 30, 1995, at approximately 3:30 p.m. in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her husband, Brad claimed that Anne returned home from a friend’s home after noon, and left again at 2:30 p.m. to buy shoes at the Mall of America (MOA). Although Anne never said she was going to the Mall of America, it was assumed (by Brad) since she did most of her shopping at Nordstrom (the MOA was the only location back in 1995). Brad said he went to do his errands and the couple planned to meet back home at 4:30 p.m. to do a couple of errands together and go to dinner. 4:30 p.m. came and went with no sign of Anne Dunlap. Anne’s husband, Brad, and parents searched multiple routes to and from the MOA as well as the construction site of their house (being built). Friends joined the search on the morning of January 1. They found her car in a Kmart parking lot on Lake Street in Minneapolis, approximately 3.5 miles from Dunlap’s current residence. The abandoned vehicle was unlocked with the keys in the ignition. Investigators roped off the area, eventually towing the car to their forensic garage for examination. Upon opening the trunk, investigators found Anne’s lifeless body with multiple sharp force injuries to her head and neck. No evidence was found that showed that Anne purchased anything that day to prove she went shopping. Her purse and wedding ring were never found. Although police suspected her husband Brad, he was never charged. Anne Dunlap’s murder is still unsolved today.
Katie Poirer was kidnapped, likely sexually assaulted, and murdered on May 26, 1999. Katie was working at D.J.’s Expressway Conoco gas station in Moose Lake when a man in a throw-back Yankee’s jersey entered the store. Her abduction was caught on the store’s surveillance camera shortly before midnight. Investigators’ break came when the surveilled captor was recognized by a co-worker as, paroled level 3 sex offender, Donald Blom a.k.a Donald Hutchinson. A statewide manhunt ensued, capturing Blom some two months later in Alexandria, Minnesota. He confessed to killing Katie Poirer and burning her body with paper. The only remnants found were her mandible and one tooth. Donald Blom is serving a life sentence without parole at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault for Katie’s kidnapping and murder. Although Blom denies it, authorities are sure he also sexually assaulted Katie given he was involved in five cases of kidnapping and sexual assault before Katie’s murder. Many also believe Donald Blom to be a serial killer, but if you think he could have killed Anne Dunlap too, it is not likely. Her cause of death did not match his M.O. (female victims age 13-19, sexual assault, and strangulation), nor did he rob his victims.
Dru Sjodin was abducted at 4:00 p.m., sexually assaulted and murdered shortly after on November 22, 2003. Dru worked at Victoria’s Secret at the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Following her shift, she shopped for a purse at Marshall Fields and then headed to her car in the shopping mall’s parking lot. She was on the phone with her boyfriend, Chris Lang when the abduction took place. He heard her say, “ok, ok, ok” before the call abruptly ended. After Dru failed to show up at her second job that evening, her co-worker, Meg Murphy reported her missing. As a result of a tip, investigators discovered that a level 3 sex offender who had just finished a 23-year sentence three months prior had been near the mall that day. Alfonzo Rodriguez Jr. was arrested in Crookston, Minnesota on December 3, 2003, a week and a day after Dru went missing. Her body was found near Crookston, Minnesota but not until April 17, 2004. Dru’s abduction took place at a Mall in North Dakota, however she was born and raised in Minnesota, her murderer lived in Minnesota, and her body was found in Minnesota.
Kira Steger was murdered February 21, 2012 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her husband, Jeffrey Trevino reported that he and his wife, Kira had a date night at the Mall of America (MOA), and then they returned home and watched a movie. The next morning, February 22, Trevino said that Kira left to go to the gym and run errands. When she didn’t show up for work on Feb 23rd, co-workers began to worry. Jeffrey called Kira’s parents on February 24 to tell them that she was missing. Mall security found Kira’s car in the MOA parking ramp on February 25. There was blood in the trunk, but no Kira. Surveillance footage captured Jeffrey Trevino driving her vehicle through the MOA ramp and backing into a parking space. More camera footage shows Trevino catching a taxi and leaving the mall. Thankfully more video still, captured from a home security camera showed Trevino exiting a cab less than a block from the couple’s home in St. Paul. Police arrested him on February 26 for second-degree murder. Investigators uncovered a troubled marriage and separation or divorce imminent. Kira was seeing someone new and was texting him throughout the date night with her husband. On May 8, 2012, Kira’s body was found in the Mississippi River. The autopsy reported a head wound and broken finger. Trevino’s defense attorneys claimed that he was just trying to quiet her during a fight, and unintentionally smothered her. On October 2, 2013, Jeffrey Trevino was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder of Kira Steger. On November 25, 2013, he was sentenced to 27.5 years.
Let’s compare and contrast the three cases. Regarding victimology, merely being a woman increases the risk of victimization. None of the victims facilitated or did anything to encourage their crimes. They were all doing pretty standard, basic things. The exceptions, we don’t know what Anne Dunlap was doing when she was murdered, and Katie Poirer was working alone in a gas station late at night. I always thought laws required more than one employee in the late evening hours. In terms of perpetrators, two were unknown to the victims, one was known, and Anne’s perpetrator has not been named/caught/charged. Of the unknown perpetrators, they both sexually assaulted their victims. In Anne’s (perpetrator unnamed) and Kira’s (known perpetrator/husband) cases, there was no sexual assault. Anne Dunlap’s and Kira Steger’s cases were the ones involving theft; Anne was missing her purse and wedding ring, Kira was missing credit cards and driver’s license. As for the murder weapons, Anne was the only victim whose homicidal violence was caused by a specific weapon, a knife. The unknown offenders strangled or asphyxiated their victims (Katie and Dru). Kira’s husband unintentionally yet violently smothered her with a pillow. Three of the four victims’ bodies were concealed and not staged. Anne Dunlap’s was the only case in which the victim’s body(/car) was left in a public place (not concealed) and allegedly staged (unlocked car with keys in the ignition left in a high crime public area). Three of the four victims’ received justice as their perpetrators were charged and convicted. Anne Dunlap’s is the only case unsolved and without justice.