The chocolate chip cookies were baked, and Marge Erickson was all ready to take a plateful of the homemade cookies next door to her neighbors on Christmas Eve.
It was a traditional gift the Ericksons have given to Theodore and Angeline Bieganek.
The Bieganeks refused to accept any money from the Ericksons for the occasions they kept watch over the house when the Ericksons were out of town, but Ted liked chocolate chip cookies so it became the only gift the Bieganeks would accept in return for their neighborly help throughout the year.
The Ericksons never got the chance to deliver their Christmas cookies. Just after 11 a.m. Christmas Eve, the Bieganeks' driveway at 5864 Barbeau Road north of Brainerd was filled with squad cars from the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department. Law enforcement officers also blocked off the road and yellow crime tape now wraps around their property.
Neighbors learned from authorities that the Bieganeks, described as a nice couple and model citizens, were discovered shot in their bed Monday morning. The Ericksons, who live about 100 feet away from the couple's home, were left stunned.
"It's been hard to think that something this tragic would happen only feet away," said Wayne Erickson. "Ted and Angie were the greatest people, very kind and giving. I cannot say enough good things about them."
Wayne said he last spoke to the Bieganeks about two weeks ago when Ted was outside hanging Christmas lights. He said he teased Ted about Angie sending him out into the yard to hang the lights. Erickson said the couple often went on walks together along Barbeau Road. They'd been neighbors for about seven to eight years, he said. When the Bieganeks would have large family gatherings at their home, the Ericksons gladly donated lawn chairs and picnic tables to help them out.
Erickson said a couple of his six children stayed up as late as 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Yet no one in the home heard or saw anything unusual next door.
The Bieganeks recently completed some landscaping and added new siding to their home and garage, said Erickson. The Christmas lights that lighted up their home around 7:30 p.m. Sunday night when the Erickson family returned from a family celebration are now dark. The two large reindeer decorations remain in their front yard. A flag can be found at the end of their driveway. Another U.S. flag is visible from a front window.
This morning as light snow fell, a lone Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department squad car could be found in the Bieganeks' driveway. A living room light shone through the blinds in the home that is now a crime scene.
"It's a really bad deal," said Jim Loss, who lives across the road from the Bieganeks. He said he brought breakfast and cookies out to the deputies who spent their Christmas keeping a 24-hour watch over the Bieganek home.
"If it's random, yeah, it concerns me," said Loss. "I have a wife and daughter and I'll protect my family. You watch it on TV and you never think it's going to happen next to you."
Ted and Angie (Veit) Bieganek were married in 1996. He owned a furniture-stripping business at 1021 Mill Ave. in Brainerd. In 1992, Ted Bieganek ran for an at-large seat on the Brainerd City Council. He was a 1951 Little Falls High School graduate and received a bachelor of administration degree from Moorhead State College. He had served in the Navy for four years and was a member of the VFW and American Legion. He also had been a Brainerd School Board candidate in 1993.
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