With hopes of keeping the Erika Dalquist disappearance case fresh in area residents' minds, two informational events and more searches are planned this week.
Dalquist, 21, has been missing since Oct. 30 and is believed to be dead. While many searches have taken place throughout the area since her disappearance from downtown Brainerd, including a two-week search in a Crosby area mine pit lake, law enforcement officials have yet to find her body.
On Thursday a news conference is planned at the Department of Public Safety office in St. Paul. Along with the Dalquist case, three other cases involving unsolved crimes will be featured. That same day, Brainerd police and Crow Wing County sheriff's deputies will conduct law enforcement-only searches in the county.
And Saturday has been named "Erika Dalquist Day," Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc said. The day was planned around Dalquist's birthday on Friday. She would've been 22.
Bolduc said his office hopes to use these two events to keep public attention on the Dalquist case. He is asking people to search their property, especially rural or secluded areas, for anything suspicious before heavy vegetation begins to grow, making searches difficult.
"We have a narrow window of opportunity to conduct a broad search," said Bolduc.
With the exception of a few searches using an airplane and investigators continuing to follow up leads, the hunt for Dalquist has slowed since Feb. 20, the last day the Trident Foundation, a Colorado-based non-profit organization that specializes in aquatic investigation and recovery, used a remote-operated vehicle to search the depths of the Virginia Mine Pit lake near Trommald.
Police investigators were led to the mine pit lake based on statements taken by 24-year-old William Myears. Myears was charged with second-degree manslaughter Jan. 15 in connection with Dalquist's disappearance.
The charge against Myears was dropped Jan. 31 after Brainerd police investigators and Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan concluded more time was needed to investigate the case before bringing it to a grand jury.
The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department is continuing to monitor the ice on Virginia Mine Pit lake, and will continue searching the lake and other areas once conditions allow, said Sgt. Neal Gaalswyk, Crow Wing County sheriff's boat and water safety supervisor.
"I remain fairly confident that Erika is not in that body of water, based on the searches we did last winter," said Gaalswyk. "But given the conditions, we could've missed her, so we're going to continue to search on the lake."
Gaalswyk said he is hoping, though no plans are yet set, to do additional sonar work on the mine pit lake, and to search other lakes in the mine pit area.
"We want to search enough that we can confidently say we've eliminated that area," said Gaalswyk. "We need to do some open water stuff. Even with 1,000 holes drilled in a (frozen) lake, there's a possibility we missed a four or five square-foot area, and that could be the spot."
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