50 years later, assassinated St. Paul Officer Jim Sackett remains a hero

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St. Paul Police Officer Jim Sackett seemed to have it all.

The Air Force veteran was 18 months into what would likely be a long career with the St. Paul Police Department. He was returning to work, a night shift, for the first time after taking a short leave to be home with his wife and family after the birth of their fourth child. He kissed his wife and children goodbye not knowing he’d never be home again.

"He just went on a call that he thought was mercy … and it proved to be his death," his wife Jeanette Sackett told 5 Eyewitness News in 1994.

Sackett and his partner Glen Kothe responded to an emergency call from a woman who said her sister was about to give birth and didn’t have transportation to a hospital. When they arrived at the house and Sackett knocked on the door, no one answered.

"I walked to the back door and rapped on the door, and a dog started barking, and it sounded like a large dog," Kothe told 5 Eyewitness News recently. "So I leaned over the railing and I said, ‘Hey Jim, they got a big dog. Watch it.’ Just then the shot came, and the intersection just lit up."

A gunshot from a high-powered rifle struck Sackett just above his badge near his heart. There was no chance of survival.

Kothe thinks about that night nearly every day even 50 years later.

"’What could I have done different?’ The usual survivor’s guilt stuff."

He says his partner paid the "ultimate sacrifice" in the service of the people of St. Paul.

Current St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell thinks the same.

"That moment in the history of our department has changed us moving forward," Axtell said "It was a profound moment in the history of the St. Paul Police Department. That moment changed the trajectory of his entire family and those four young children who grew up without a father. And his wife, Jeanette, who lived the rest of her life without the love of her life. It’s incredibly impactful, and it’s a good time for all of us to remember those sacrifices."

The killers fled into the night after Sackett’s murder just after midnight on May 22, 1970. Police knew who made the fake emergency call but could never get her to reveal who asked her to make the call and set up the shooting. So the case went dormant until 1994.

That’s when 5 Eyewitness News tracked down the woman police had long known made the fake emergency call. Connie Trimble was living in a suburb of Denver when we approached her about the case. She agreed to an interview.

"I have often thought about someone coming to approach me someday, but it was like a shock today," she said in November of 1994.

After talking for a while, Trimble got down to the details of her making the emergency call. In the aftermath of the murder, she refused to say who was with her at the phone booth. When police asked about Ron Reed, her boyfriend and father of her child, she provided an alibi and said he was home in bed when she made the call.

In 1994 she told a different story. "Was Ron standing right next to you, Ron Reed?," I asked, making sure I heard her correctly. "Ron was at the phone booth me, you know," she said.

After we aired our story on 5 Eyewitness News, St. Paul Police reopened the investigation now that they had an eyewitness placing their prime suspect a block from the murder scene minutes before it happened.

After another 10 years of dogged investigation by the St. Paul Cold Case Unit with the aid of the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ron Reed and an accomplice, Larry Clark, were arrested in 2005. They were convicted for First Degree Murder in separate trials and sentenced to life in prison.

Reed, who police say fired the shot, remains in prison. Clark appealed in 2009 and was granted a new trial. He reached a plea deal to serve one more year before his release in 2010.

A memorial in honor of Jim Sackett had been scheduled before the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, police squads with lights and sirens will drive by the house where his wife, Jeanette, still lives. The same house where Jim Sackett kissed her and the kids goodbye for the last time on May 22, 1970.

Jeanette will be in the front yard with her four kids and eight grandchildren to wave at the police procession.