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Man found guilty of 1983 murder thanks to new DNA technology

Darrell Rea Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office
Darrell Rea

May 01, 2019 04:59 PM

A St. Louis Park man has been found guilty of a 1983 murder of a young woman.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office said in a news release Wednesday that Darrell Rea, 64, was found guilty of second-degree murder by a district court judge for the death of 17-year-old Laurie Mesedahl in 1983.

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The attorney's office said when Mesedahl's body was found in the Soo Line Railroad near 28th Avenue North, police didn't have DNA technology available to match to a suspect. However, bloody clothes and semen samples were taken during the autopsy and preserved by investigators.

The criminal complaint says Mesedahl was at a party on April 1, 1983 but was home by 2:30 a.m. the following day before leaving the house again with a half hour. About half hour later, she knocked on the door of a friend's house, but wasn't allowed in. The complaint says her body was found not far from the home, which was located at 32nd and Bryant avenues.

The autopsy and investigations indicated Mesedahl was raped, strangled to unconsciousness, driven to the train yard and then beaten to death between the train tracks, the attorney's office said.

Authorities said solving her murder was linked to developments in another case under investigation. In 1988, a woman in Minneapolis was picked up by a man, raped, strangled and assaulted with a sharp object, but she managed to escape and had some of the man's blood on her clothes.

Related: DNA Evidence Leads to Charges in 1983 Murder

In 1993, the new DNA technology was used on that blood sample, the attorney's office said, and it matched Rea's profile. However, because the statute of limitations had run out on that assault, it gave police Rea's DNA.

Then, in 2013, police asked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigations to run the semen sample taken from Mesedahl's body, and it matched Rea.

The attorney's office said Rea was arrested and questioned by police in 2015, but was released without charges. In 2017, enough evidence was collected to finally charge Rea.

A hearing to determine his sentencing date is set for Monday.

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