Man charged with 2nd-degree murder of Cass County woman

Joshua Karjala. Photo: Aitkin County Jail
Joshua Karjala.

Updated: November 07, 2019 08:29 PM

A 34-year-old Swatara man was charged with second-degree murder Thursday in District Court in Aitkin County.

Joshua Emil Karjala is accused of strangling Michelle Mae, a 35-year-old Outing woman, to death. Karjala was arrested Oct. 5 for a probation violation and has been in custody at Aitkin County Jail since. Bail was set at $2 million with conditions or $5 million without conditions.


According to court documents, Mae was reported missing by her family on Oct. 3. Her body was found on Oct. 15 by authorities after executing a search warrant at Karjala's residence. The criminal complaint clarifies that Bryan Karjala, Joshua's father, owned the property but lived in a camper outside the residence.

Joshua Karjala showed up on the investigator's radar after one of Mae's friends came forward with a text message that contained a screenshot of a conversation between Mae and an individual later determined to be Karjala, according to court documents.

Body of missing Outing woman found in Aitkin County, suspect in custody

Karjala and Mae had met through a dating app and had met up Oct. 2 for a date, documents said. When questioned by authorities, Karjala said they had sex and she left that same night, according to the criminal complaint.

On Oct. 5, authorities searched Karjala's residence with his permission and found women's clothing, identified as Mae's by her family — though Karjala said the clothes belonged to his girlfriend, court documents said. Karjala was arrested that day after allegedly running from police after he was told they wanted a urinalysis as part of a spot check. He agreed to the test but insisted he stay until the search warrant was finished. But once authorities told him he would be transported to Aitkin County Jail for the examination, Karjala ran. He was on supervised probation and was restricted from using intoxicants, according to court documents.

According to court documents, on Oct. 8 Karjala was speaking with a nurse at the Aitkin County Jail when he allegedly told the nurse he "may have killed a girl" while using meth-laced ecstasy. Karjala allegedly told the nurse, "he got violent and choked out a girl several times, but he could not remember anything due to his drug usage," court documents said.

Aitkin County authorities ask hunters to watch for missing woman

Karjala also allegedly told the nurse he had videotaped sex with the girl's permission. When he watched the video, he saw he choked her in what "resembled a sleeper hold used in wrestling," according to court documents. When the nurse asked Karjala what happened to the girl, he allegedly said he didn't know, and that "she slid down out of the video and no one can find her," according to the criminal complaint.

On Oct. 15, officers executed a third search warrant on Karjala's residence. It was during this search that authorities, with the help of a K-9, found Mae's body in a crawlspace under the north side of the house. She was located buried in the dirt under a blanket, the complaint states.

Mae's body was transferred to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office, which determined Mae's cause of death was homicide by asphyxia due to manual strangulation.

Karjala is scheduled to appear in court next on Nov. 18.

Cass County authorities searching for missing woman

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Tommy Wiita

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