HALLOCK, Minn. (AP) -- Curtiss Cedergren once told an acquaintance that Julie Holmquist's killer would commit suicide before police caught him. Investigators say Cedergren probably killed Julie -- and that he shot himself to death, as predicted, after they knocked on his door last August to ask him to take a polygraph test.
The 16-year-old Hallock girl was abducted July 29, 1998, while in-line skating to train for the varsity volleyball team. Her disappearance rocked Hallock, 390 miles northwest of the Twin Cities near the North Dakota and Canadian borders. Her body was found about three weeks later in a gravel pit near Lancaster, 13 miles northeast of Hallock. But the case was unsolved until Monday.
"We strongly believe that Curtiss Dale Cedergren abducted and killed Julie Holmquist," said Terry Smith, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension special agent in charge of the case. Investigators said a gun found in Cedergren's home matched the shell casing found where Julie was abducted. But Cedergren didn't leave a suicide note, and no DNA evidence linked him to the girl.
Cedergren committed suicide Aug. 9, as the investigation increasingly focused on him. That morning, Kittson County Chief Deputy Craig Spilde knocked on the door of Cedergren's house. A boy who answered the door went to find Cedergren, who then ran behind the house, dressed only in boxer shorts, and shot himself in the head. The divorced father of four was 38.
Smith said Julie apparently did not know Cedergren.
"It was a crime of opportunity," Smith said. "It could be one of those things as tragic as two people's lives touching for a moment. Wrong place, wrong time."
An unidentified acquaintance of Cedergren's told police about the suicide prediction sometime after Julie's abduction. As Cedergren and the acquaintance drove into Hallock past a billboard with the girl's face and a vow to find her killer, the acquaintance asked, "Do you think they will ever get the guy that did it?"
"Naw, they will never get him," Cedergren said. "He'll kill himself first." If he were facing life in prison, he added, "I'd blow my head off with a shotgun."
Smith said that authorities followed hundreds of leads following Holmquist's death, one of which included an interview with Cedergren. But, Smith said, the investigator forgot to ask Cedergren a key question -- what kind of car he drove.
Investigators eventually solved the case by tracing a vehicle that other teenage girls reported as being suspicious in the same area as the abduction, Smith said. The vehicle led them to Cedergren. They interviewed him several more times and he eventually agreed to take a polygraph test.
"When (authorities) got the information about the young girls who had been followed, you might say stalked, that made the hair stand up on the back of our necks," Smith said.
In a search of Cedergren's home after his suicide, under some clothing in a closet, investigators found a disassembled .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol, Smith said. In November, a BCA expert matched the gun to a shell casing found at the site where Holmquist was abducted, he said.
On Monday, investigators said Holmquist's body had decomposed too much to determine the cause of death but they suspected a gunshot wound.
Holmquist's mother, Clarice Holmquist, thanked the community for its support and investigators for their hard work.
"As Julie's family, we feel relieved that after these four past years we finally have some answers," Clarice Holmquist said.
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