While divers searched a mine pit lake near Trommald for the body of Erika Dalquist Wednesday, 24-year-old William Gene Myears was charged with second-degree manslaughter in connection with the 21-year-old Brainerd woman's disappearance.
Erika Dalquist was last seen in the early morning hours of Oct. 30 leaving Tropical Nites with a man with brown hair. Myears, whose address was given on County Road 159 northeast of Brainerd, was arrested at the Law Enforcement Center Monday after being questioned by Brainerd police investigators.
In the months since her disappearance, several searches for Erika Dalquist have been made in and around Brainerd, but it was information Myears gave to police during questioning Monday that led law enforcement officials to Virginia Mine Pit Lake south of Trommald, where members of the Crow Wing County Dive Team searched Tuesday and Wednesday.
Myears told police investigators Erika Dalquist was in "the pits," the criminal complaint filed against him stated.
"That's the deepest place I could think of," Myears told investigators.
With about two-thirds of the 189-foot-deep lake searched -- down to a depth of about 120 feet -- Crow Wing County Sheriff Eric Klang today said divers had yet to locate Erika Dalquist. Klang said the lake depths will be searched today using sonar and cameras.
Colleen Dalquist, with her husband Duane by her side, fought back tears as she told reporters that despite William Gene Myears' arraignment at the Crow Wing County Social Services building in Brainerd on Wednesday, her family does not consider the ordeal over until Erika's body is found. (Dispatch Photo by Clint Wood)
"The search has been very difficult," said Klang. "It's been very cold, and that's been creating problems with (air tank) regulators." Crow Wing County Sheriff's Boat and Water Safety Supervisor Sgt. Neal Gaalswyk today said divers would only be going into the water to look at targeted objects.
At his arraignment Wednesday, Myears appeared somber as Crow Wing County District Court Judge Richard Zimmerman read him his rights and set bond and bail at $100,000.
In a Dec. 24 interview with police investigators, Myears said he had been in downtown Brainerd the night of Oct. 29, but that he didn't leave with Dalquist, according to the criminal complaint.
After several witnesses' statements contradicted his, Myears, in a second interview Jan. 9, admitted to giving Erika Dalquist a ride home.
Police seized Myears' work truck -- the vehicle believed to have been used by Myears to drive downtown Oct. 29 -- and are still processing evidence from it, Klang said.
In the third interview Monday, Myears told police that he didn't know where Erika Dalquist was and that he didn't know if he had done something bad, the criminal complaint said. "I hope I didn't. I can't remember. I want to remember everything that happened that night," Myears told police. Later in the same interview he told police: "Something happened and I did something."
It was then that Myears told police that the mine pits were the only place he could think of that he would've taken Erika Dalquist's body, the criminal complaint said, and he drew officers a map to the location he thought he had taken her.
Myears, his grandmother and a police officer drove to the mine pit Myears believed he had put Erika Dalquist's body into. Myears was emotional and couldn't look into the pit, the criminal complaint said, but pointed officers in the right direction.
Myears said he remembered being waist deep in water and that the body of Erika Dalquist should be in that location, the complaint said.
Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc, at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, declined to comment on specifics of the case because it is still being investigated.
"Certainly having an arrest made and a suspect charged with a crime is a positive step, but there's much left to be done," Bolduc said. "We have to recover Erika."
Bolduc said no other arrests were pending.
William Gene Myears
At the arraignment Wednesday, Zimmerman granted Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan's request to convene a grand jury to consider further charges against Myears. Ryan has 10 days from the date of Myears arraignment to convene a grand jury. Myears next hearing was set for Jan. 24.
Myears could face stronger charges if Dalquist's body is found. Ryan said the county attorney's office can amend a complaint anytime before a jury convening in a trial.
After Myears' arraignment, Erika Dalquist's mother, Colleen Dalquist, said her family is happy with the progress with the case, but their main objective hasn't been met.
"We don't have our daughter yet," said Colleen Dalquist, fighting back tears while exiting the courtroom with her husband and Erika's father, Duane Dalquist. "And until we have her back the rest doesn't mean a lot to us yet."
Chad Johnson, a friend of Myears who attended his arraignment Wednesday, said he was surprised to hear of Myears' arrest in connection with Erika Dalquist's disappearance. Myears had lived with Johnson and Johnson's mother.
"He's kind of like an older brother to me," Johnson said.
Myears has been charged with several misdemeanor crimes in the past, including trespassing, theft, disorderly conduct and a fifth-degree assault charge in 1997 in which he was found guilty of threatening his sister.
In that case, Myears was accused of threatening to shoot his sister and her boyfriend, showing his sister a clip to a handgun. Myears was arrested for terroristic threats, but those charges were later reduced to fifth-degree assault and he was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.