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DNA links suspect facing sentencing for a Minneapolis teen's 36-year-old murder to other crimes

June 23, 2019 11:14 PM

Justice has been a long time coming for those who knew and loved 17-year-old Laurie Mesedahl.

The Minneapolis teenager was choked, raped and beaten to death in 1983.  Her bludgeoned body was found along railroad tracks in North Minneapolis.

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Last month, a Hennepin County Judge found 64-year-old Darrell Rea guilty of her homicide. The St. Louis Park man will be sentenced on Tuesday.

Barbara Briggs will be there.  She is the woman who helped crack the case.  She is another one of Rea's victims.

"He stabbed me with an ice pick in the back of the neck at that point I felt like I needed to play dead,"Briggs said. "I thought he wants to kill me, he's not going to stop."

Briggs fought back and managed to escape the stranger's car.  She ran to a nearby home for help, her clothing covered with her attacker's blood.  Suspects and leads were hard to come by back then.  It was 1988, before the internet, cell phones and DNA technology.  Investigators kept that evidence, and years later it would make a difference to Briggs and others.

RELATED: Man found guilty of 1983 murder thanks to new DNA technology

Police obtained a warrant for a person of interest in this case and several other violent crimes over the years.  They retrieved Darrell Rea's blood and saliva and compared it with a sample from Briggs clothes.  It matched Rea's DNA profile.

But state law stipulated too much time had passed and Rea couldn't be charged in Briggs assault.

"It makes you feel worthless, like you weren't worthy for paying the time for doing the crime," said Briggs.

However, because of Briggs, police now had Rea's DNA on file.  When Minneapolis Police launched the Cold Case Squad in 2013, investigators reviewed Laurie Mesedahl's unsolved homicide.  Detectives got the break they needed by taking a fresh look at evidence stored in a warehouse, according to Sgt. Chris Karakostas.

"By obtaining those clothes with more DNA on them, that changed the focus of the case," Karakostas said.

Forensic testing revealed Rea's blood and semen on Mesedahl.  In 2015, he was arrested, charged,  and on May 1, he was convicted in her 1983 murder.  Judge Tamara Garcia stated, "the DNA evidence is compelling."   Rea is facing a 10-year prison sentence, but with time served, he could be out sooner.  He has denied the accusations.


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Two other women, who happen to be sisters, feel compelled to be in the courtroom during his sentencing.  Rea lived with their mom and they say he sexually assaulted them as little girls

"I'm just really trying to understand what a monster he was and how we had to grow up with that," said one of the sisters, Naomie Rondo, through tears.

Her sister, Monique Stevens, traveled from out of state to be at the hearing

"He spent 10-plus years raping me...," Stevens said.

"This case is not about me, it's about what he did to all the other women, but only 10 years?"

Karakostas acknowledged, "with this particular offender there are other victims out there that aren't going to be able to get justice, but they are still part of this investigation."

Police are convinced Rea is a suspect in all of the incidents, including a still-missing person, but due to the statute of limitations, they can't take legal action.  The law has changed regarding sexual assaults in Minnesota; the clock only starts ticking when a DNA sample is identified.  There is no time limit on murder. 

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Credits

Beth McDonough

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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