STARBUCK, Minn. (KMSP) - It’s a day of sadness and a time for prayer in Starbuck, Minn. as questions continue to swirl about what happened to Laura Schwendemann.
For nearly 2 weeks, the small community had hoped for a miracle. Purple ribbons were tied across downtown Starbuck for Laura, but over the last 24 hours a heartbreaking reality set in the University of Minnesota-Morris student’s body was apparently located in a remote farm field southeast of Alexandria, Minn.
“The whole town is concerned. At least we have closure somewhat,” said Dan Jahn, a local business owner. “She was a well-liked person in town.”
Field near Cemetery Road
Schwendemann was last seen alive the night of Oct. 14 at the Holiday gas station on 50th Avenue with a man who investigators said she knew. Law enforcement conducted extensive searches on the ground and in the air, but it was a farmer who found the body of a young woman late Monday afternoon near the dirt road intersection of West Cemetery Road and English Grove Road.
"We have reason to believe that we have located Laura Ann Schwendemann; however, we are awaiting further information from the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office," sheriff's officials said. "Although we may have entered into the next phase of the investigation, the case remains open and active."
Amazing, sweet, talented young lady
Schwendemann's aunt, Beth Aaberg, wrote that it was indeed her niece in a post on a Facebook page asking the public to "Keep Your Porch light on for Laura Schwendemann.
"We all prayed so hard for a much better outcome... we all wanted to find Laura safe... this wasn't to be.... Laura Schwendemann was found today and our family will bring her home and lay her to rest... we ask for ongoing prayers and support from our friends and family as well as the community. She was an amazing sweet talented young lady."
Focus shifts to cause of death
The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office will release the identity and official cause of death.
"Again, we do not have reason to believe that the general public is in danger and our focus is now why and how this young woman died," sheriff's officials continued.
Investigators have identified the man she was last seen with, calling him "the focus" of the investigation, and have conducted interviews and had conversations with him.
Counseling available at Univ. of Minnesota, Morris
I am writing to share very sad news. We learned last night of the likely death of one of our students, Laura Ann Schwendemann, a first year student from Starbuck, Minnesota. Laura had been reported missing by her family on October 15. After searches of Douglas and Pope County by law enforcement, human remains were found yesterday by a farmer in Douglas County. Pope and Douglas County Sheriff’s Offices are awaiting positive confirmation by the Midwest Medical Examiners Office. While the investigation of Laura’s disappearance is ongoing, investigators do not believe there is an ongoing risk to public safety.
We are very saddened by this tragic loss and express our deepest sympathy to Laura’s family and friends. Laura grew up in west central Minnesota. She exceled at Minnewaska High School in Pope County and at Alexandria Technical and Community College where she studied as a PSEO student. She finished high school through the Runestone Regional Learning Center in Alexandria in 2015. At UMM, Laura was majoring in Management, with a focus on Financial and Organizational Management. She did not live on campus and was just beginning to connect with our campus community. She was 18.
Expressions of support and sympathy may be sent to Laura’s parents Dan and Darla Schwendemann and her sister Heidi Schwendemann at PO Box 212, Starbuck MN 56381. Information on memorial services will be shared with the campus community when it is available.
We encourage students who are grieving to seek support from our Student Counseling staff. Their services are free and confidential. Their office is located on the 2nd floor of Behmler Hall. Student Counseling staff are available to talk with you from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After 4:30pm, please call Campus Police at 320-287-1601 to connect with Student Counseling.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
University of Minnesota Morris