PILLAGER -- After reports of early Thursday morning gunshots and screams from a rural Pillager residence, two men and a woman were found, several hours later, dead at the scene.
Law enforcement officials, including the Cass County Sheriff's Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, are investigating the deaths as a triple homicide. Autopsies though have yet to be performed. Cass County Sheriff Randy Fisher said one of the bodies was transported from the scene to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office for identification and autopsy. The two other bodies remained at the scene today.
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, heard shots and screams before 5 a.m. Thursday. The screams were followed by silence and later by the sound of a vehicle that stopped at the end of the road and then tore out of the area. Nearby residents reported having a feeling that something bad had happened in the home. The neighbor called Cass County Sheriff's Department. A deputy responded to the home, knocked on the door, didn't receive a response and left.
Fisher said today that the landlord who owns the mobile home discovered the bodies and called police about 3 p.m. Thursday. Fisher said a man's body and a woman's body were found inside the residence and a man's body was located outside the mobile home in a wooded area.
Investigators arrived at the scene Thursday afternoon and numerous sports utility vehicles and a mobile Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab arrived again at the scene this morning. A bicycle rider and a variety of vehicles, including a school bus, were reported to have passed the home on the gravel road without seeing the man's body outside or anything amiss with the home Thursday.
The neighborhood is a mix of seasonal residents, tidy well-kept homes and neat yards with freshly planted flowers and a vacant lot next to the mobile home where the bodies were found that had an abandoned car with a smashed front windshield and other appliances.
Neighbors report a lot of traffic on the gravel road just off Big Water Road. Neighbors reported numerous calls to law enforcement about the residence in the past, gunshots going off during the night, a Bobcat working behind the home at night, loud music and screaming. The current residents had moved in several months ago and were much quieter, but the traffic continued to be busy, what one neighbor equated to the traffic at a fast-food restaurant.
"When you live in an area like this and you see a lot of traffic it's very noticeable," another resident said of the rural and heavily wooded neighborhood. "We feel just really threatened by what's going on down there."
"I was just sick to my stomach last night," she said. "You think you move out in the country and move out of the cities to get away from this stuff."
A nearby neighbor said the most recent residents, believed to be in their late teens or early 20s, had not been as loud and she had not noticed as much activity at the residence until the last two weeks. Another neighbor, visibly shaken by the events, said she knew the victims but she declined to be interviewed.
A neighborhood crime watch was established in the area in 1997 after several thefts targeted the seasonal homes. A neighborhood watch sign adorns a couple of yards near the crime scene. A neighbor said she was saddened three people were dead but she wanted the landlord who owns the residence to remove it.
"We have children," she said. "We moved here for a nice quiet life. It could have been us. It could have been any of our neighbors. ... The home itself has this type of history. There is a pattern here and it needs to be stopped."
Officers from Cass County, Crow Wing County, the cities of Lake Shore, Motley and Pillager and agents from the BCA responded to the scene.
A news conference was scheduled for 3 p.m. today at the Cass County Sheriff's Department in Walker.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Cass County Sheriff's Department at (800) 450-2677.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.