Investigation: Finding Trina Langenbrunner's Killer
BROOKSTON-On Labor Day weekend, 2000, authorities found the body of Trina Langenbrunner bloodied and beaten. Murdered.Nearly twelve years later the St. Louis County case is unsolved and authorities suspect the killer still lives near the Fond du Lac reservation among the family of the victim.
Sheriff Ross Litman, however, does not like calling this a 'cold case'. That’s because their office is still getting leads providing information to be followed–up on.
In addition, new investigative technology could point investigators in the right direction.
But, as it stands, Trina's family knows any suspect is still miles away from a conviction.
Maple Grove Cemetery in Cloquet is the final resting place of Trina Langenbrunner. Her Sister, Sharri St. Germaine, visited the gravesite last week – brushing off the stone marker, recalling her final memories.
"It was the afternoon that we brought her some bread and dropped it off – the last time that I saw her,” Sharri said, remembering Trina.
“She was standing at the top of the stairs, the front door stair and kind of had her head turned a little bit and I see that image in my mind all the time,” Sharri said.
Trina’s daughter, Shela, now has children of her own.
"I bring the kids to the cemetery and I tell them about her all the time. They're always asking about Grandma Trina. They never knew her but she's still Grandma Trina to them,” Shela said.
She also remembers getting the terrible news about her 33-year-old mom while playing at a friend's house on September 3, 2000.
"I kept saying 'is it my mom? Is it my mom?' and [my aunt] wouldn't tell me. I pulled up to my grandma's and my uncle was at the doorstep and I just cried in his arms. He told me it was my mom,” Shela said.
"It's the worst feeling in the world to lose someone so close...your mother,” Shela said.
It was in Brookston that Trina's body was found.
Family says she was tortured – stabbed 27 times - and dumped on Duff Road off of Highway 2.
Now investigators continue to look over the evidence collected at the decade–plus old scene.
St. Louis County Lieutenant James Lukovsky now oversees the case he describes as brutal.
"We do believe that the location where Trina was found was in fact where she was killed. How she got there is part of our case investigation,” Lukovsky said.
Sheriff Litman has more than six binders of tips that his office has followed up on.
"As you can see by the volumes of lead sheets in the books that are in front of us right now, you know, over the course of the ten plus years of this case we've followed up on nearly a thousand tips,” Litman said.
"There is a hundred thousand dollar reward out there right now and has been since either late in 2000, early in 2001,” Litman said.
"I would have thought that over the years someone would have come forward with some information because there's no doubt in my mind that somebody knows about this case,” Litman said.
Lt. Lukovsky said, even with rewards in similar cases, the difficulty comes with a tight community.
"You go back to them and you ask them 'why?' because as good investigators or good cops that's what we do. Why didn't we figure this out? And they'll tell you. 'Well I was afraid'."
Some of Trina’s family members, however, say they already live in fear.
"The people who did this or the person who did this could still be right here in our neighborhood,” Douglas St. Germaine said. He is Trina’s little brother.
The murder, he says, made him forget years of his life. He says he knows his family deserves the truth.
"I'm just letting everybody know that if anybody know anything, let us know. We loved Trina and we miss her and we would like to have this solved,” St. Germaine said.
Lt. Lukovsky says that feeling is what drives the department investigation.
"That grieving and that hold that's left with no resolution is the driving force behind what keeps us going forward on this,” Lukovsky said.
With any information on Trina Langenbrunner, call the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department at 218-726-2340 or the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Tipline at 1-877-996-6222.
If the information given leads to a conviction, $100,000 would be awarded to the tipster.
People may also leave a tip anonymously.
If you would like to talk to Reporter Jacob Kittilstad about this story, click here for a link to his Facebook.