Carl Albin and Olga Wilkowski
MENAHGA, Minn. (KMSP) - Last November a mystery like no other unfolded in Menahga, Minn., beginning with a seemingly unexplainable murder-suicide.
Why would a gentle, old man kill someone and then turn the gun on himself?
Wednesday, without really answering that question, police announced they’ve wrapped up the investigation into the shooting--but the case is far from closed. Instead, it’s grown to include cities and counties in the area, even Wisconsin.
THE MURDER SUICIDE
On Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, police arrived at the home of Carl Albin to find him lying on the garage floor with his thumb still on the trigger of a gun. Mike Callahan, an insurance agent-turned financial planner, lay dead inside on the kitchen floor.
So what happened?
Carl grew up loving the land, his smokes and later in life, a woman named Olga Wilkowski. He and Olga both sold their successful farms and moved to Menahga. Neither had children.
It's unclear when Callahan started to work with the unmarried couple, but in November Olga died from lung cancer and Carl was devastated. According to the family and funeral home director, Callahan took control of plans for Olga’s service, which he limited to a graveside memorial, no flowers and a low-cost casket.
The family said Callahan tried to bully Carl into returning a new car he had recently bought.
WHY KEEP CARL FROM SPENDING?
With Olga gone, Callahan would control all the money if Carl were to die. Carl’s instructions said that the money should be given to organizations or individuals “designated during private conversation” with Callahan, meaning the financial planner could basically do what he wanted.
According to a search warrant, the evening before Olga’s funeral Callahan paid a house call to Carl. It would be his last.
Hours later, when Callahan didn’t return home, his girlfriend and business assistant made a frantic 911 call. She went to Carl’s house looking for Callahan and found him dead.
A police investigator described what they found in the "neat and orderly" house: a table set for two with crumbs on the plates, several prescription bottles for Olga and more than $100,000 cash.
67-year-old Callahan had a gunshot to the head, and 82-year-old Carl was in the garage.
A couple hours passed between the time Carl shot Callahan and then turned the gun on himself. It’s during that time his family thinks he wrote a note, which is now part of the probate file.
It contained instructions to sell his cars, including the one Callahan tried to make him give up.
According to court documents, Carl’s family is going to court to keep both his and Olga’s fortunes from going to Callahan’s family now that he’s dead. They believe there are assets Callahan may have taken from Olga and Carl through “fraud, illegal activity and duress.”
$73,000 FROM ONE CLIENT’S ESTATE
“My first instinct when I heard he’d gotten shot was maybe he’s screwed someone else over,” Jenny Yearous said. “I’m glad you’re looking into this. It just felt kind of sleazy to me.”
Yearous lives in North Dakota. Several years ago a close family friend, a librarian and teacher named Isabella Frazier Sanders, died. She said Sanders and her husband were like a second family to her. They had had no children.
Yearous and her sister were surprised to learn that together they’d inherited five percent of Sanders' estate. Many charities got similar amounts.
“I was just tickled she remembered me," Yearous said. "$50 would have made me happy."
They were so touched they didn’t make an issue of the fact that Callahan, Sanders' personal representative, and the library got one of the biggest chunks--15 percent each. That amounts to more than $73,000 for the personal representative. The will read "for all Mike Callahan had done for Bella.” He also got paid $8,000 for being the personal representative of Sanders' estate.
A close friend said Callahan did help manage her money in her last years, when her husband was diagnosed with dementia.
When Sanders was in her final days, two friends said they heard her tell Callahan that she wanted to donate $25,000 to help buy a new grand piano for the Park Rapids High School.
“She said how much do you need?" said Barbara Curtis, a close friend of Sanders. "I said $25,000 and she said, 'Barbara, I would love to pay the balance.'"
A local news article about Sanders’ generosity lists her many gifts to the community, but doesn't mention a piano. Callahan said no--and said she couldn’t make decisions while medicated, despite Curtis' insistence she wasn't on any medication at the time.
The piano had already been ordered and other donors had to step in. People close to Bella figured Callahan merely wanted to protect his share of the estate.
“He definitely had a personal interest in keeping it as large as it could be," Yearous said. "He was getting a large chunk of it."
The Cass County Sheriff’s Department taped an interview they conducted with Callahan four months before he died. He told police about a robbery he’d discovered at another client’s home. He was not a suspect.
Callahan, an insurance agent turned financial planner, said he had a lot of clients in the Menahga and Park Rapids area.
“Most of my clients are elderly," he said in the interview. "And they have me do all kinds of things for them."
“In my business I decide if I set up a fee schedule or not," he continued. "I will get paid in some way. And I know they have me in their estates and if anything happens to both of them I will get paid at that point."
FEELING RIPPED OFF
The story of Olga and Carl made sense to Marv and Carol Bohns.
In 2005, Callahan offered to draw up a living trust for them. Their entire estate was supposed to go to their only child.
“It gave all the control to Callahan and left our daughter out,” Carol said.
When they wanted to put their daughter’s name on the account for the inheritance, the bank told them there was a problem. All the money was going into an account in Callahan’s name only.
The Bohns wanted to think it was a mistake and said Callahan had been a friend of theirs for years.
Callahan’s siblings even accused him of taking advantage of their own father. The family feud got so hot, the brother and sister began slinging restraining orders at each other.
Callahan was power of attorney for their elderly father. His sister called police and social workers when Callahan got their dad to start signing assets over only to himself.
Like a life insurance policy, it was changed to make Callahan the only beneficiary--with a hand-written note to expedite the change. Police arrested Callahan for disorderly conduct after a skirmish with his sister, but no charges were filed.