Family Remembers St. Paul Man Found Dismembered in Lake Superior, Advocates for Other Missing and Murdered Indigenous People

On Sunday, family and friends of Ricky Balsimo and community members gathered to honor him with cultural performances and a healing walk on the Lakewalk.

DULUTH, Minn.- A murdered indigenous man from St. Paul whose body was found dismembered in Lake Superior over the summer was remembered at a rally and walk in Canal Park Sunday, as organizers also hoped to bring attention to the cases of other missing and murdered indigenous people.

“The main purpose for today is to show Ricky’s spirit that we are here, we are here along the water, and that we are fighting for justice for him,” said organizer and advocate Jessica Gidagaakoons Smith.

The waters of Lake Superior have a deeper meaning for the Balsimo Family — it’s where the remains of 34-year-old Ricky Balsimo of St. Paul were found in five-gallon buckets and a tote in July, after he was missing for almost a month.

“Ricky was a father, a son, a brother, a nephew, a lover, and a friend,” said Balsimo’s younger sister, Raquel Turner. “Ricky was an amazing man who left an impact on everyone he met.”

“It’s good to know we have the support actually, and throughout this whole situation we felt very alone,” she said.

Dozens gathered in support of the family, and to raise awareness not only of missing and murdered indigenous women, but men who they say are sometimes less heard of.

“Their cases are not anywhere in the media,” said Smith. “Nobody’s talking about it anymore, and their families still deserve justice, their families still deserve answers.”

They say the names of other missing persons are heard more often, but they feel their loved ones are left out of public discourse.

“We see national news coverage of other missing people, just last week we had Gabby Petito,” Smith said. “And it was national news and it was found in a matter of days she had FBI, she had all law enforcement from different agencies out looking for her, dogs, everything.”

Ricky’s family says they hired a private investigator for the case. As the P.I. was working to find answers, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office contacted the Minnesota BCA, which then interviewed a witness who was later charged in the case.

That, in turn, led the BCA to the location where divers retrieved Ricky’s remains near Grand Portage.

“Everyone of us lives are important, every one of us are loved by someone and no family should have to go through what my family has been going through which we’re continuously dealing with, with this system, trying to get justice for my son,” said Ricky’s Father, Richard Balsimo Sr.

Three people were charged in Ricky’s death:

  • Jacob Colt Johnson, 35, of Superior was charged with 2nd Degree Murder – With Intent, Not Premeditated
  • Robert Thomas West, 41, of Duluth, was charged on July 16 with Aiding an Offender and Interference with a Dead Body
  • Tommi Lynn Hintz, 31, of Duluth, was arrested on August 11. Hintz is charged with Accomplice After the Fact to Felony Murder and Interference with Dead Body – Conceal a Body

On Sunday, family and friends of Ricky and community members gathered to honor him with cultural performances and a healing walk on the Lakewalk.

They ended laying flowers in the lake in tribute to Ricky, and in hopes what they went through can be prevented for others going forward.

“I hope that Ricky’s tragic death and what my family has gone through is the start of this change,” he said.

The family has started an online fundraiser to lay Ricky to rest.

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