Washington County revisits case of woman missing since 1988

Susan Swedell loved her hometown of Lake Elmo, and she loved the church she attended, Christ Lutheran on 36th Street—until she disappeared without a trace in 1988.

Sunday, her family and friends gathered in front of that church as a tree was planted in her honor. The Washington County Sheriff called it a “symbol of hope.”

“We would run around town and look at trees in the spring, and she was always really in awe of the crabapple,” said Christine Swedell, Susan’s sister. “Being back and getting that small town vibe again, just feels like she's right here.”

Susan Swedell was last seen on Jan. 19, 1988. She was heading home from work during a blizzard, when she stopped at a gas station near Manning Avenue and Highway 5 in Lake Elmo. It’s believed she had car trouble, and eventually got into a vehicle with an unknown man. 

In conjunction with the 30th anniversary of Swedell’s disappearance this past January, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office announced it was starting a cold case unit. 

“It's been 30 years that Sue has been missing, and the family needs and deserves answers,” said Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry, whose office donated the tree. “This case is going to be solved by someone that knows something or someone with that information that unlocks that piece that we need.”

Until that break comes, the tree will continue to grow, as reminder of family roots and of hope.

“Sometimes I feel real strongly about it, and other days I just hope it's not another 30 years,” Christine Swedell said. “I just want to keep going, keep the momentum going.”

If you have any information about the case, you’re asked to call a special tip line set up by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. That number is 651-430-7850.