Feb. 5: Farm worker held in slayings of family in Waseca

Authorities said the suspect's statements "put him in the house" at the time of the killings near Waseca of 2 family members.

WASECA, MINN. -- The man arrested in the shooting of a couple and their 13-year-old son early Saturday near Waseca, Minn., did not know the family, authorities said Sunday afternoon.

Husband and father Tracy Kruger, 40, and Alec Kruger, 13, were killed when an intruder broke into their farmhouse shortly before 3:30 a.m.

Hilary Kruger, 41, wife and mother, remained in critical condition Sunday at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, according to authorities and friends.

Investigators identified the suspect as Michael S. Zabawa, 24, of Matawan, Minn., who worked at a hog farm in Waseca County. Chief Deputy Sheriff Brad Milbrath said Zabawa "gave us statements that put him in the house."

Milbrath said the suspect got his pickup truck stuck in a snowy ditch in front of the Krugers' home.

He then stole the Krugers' Ford Explorer to try to pull out his pickup, but again became stuck.

At some point, Milbrath said, the suspect broke into the Krugers' house, where Tracy Kruger confronted him.

Authorities had said Saturday that Alec Kruger called 911 at 3:23 a.m. to report an intruder. The dispatcher heard gunshots and the line went silent.

The three victims were shot on the second floor of the house, Milbrath said. Preliminary indications are that the shotgun used belonged to the Krugers, he said. Hilary Kruger was shot in the upper torso; Milbrath wouldn't say where the others were shot.

The Krugers' youngest son, Zak, a fourth-grader, was spending the night at a friend's house and now is with relatives, authorities said.

They wouldn't say anything about a possible motive, whether anything was taken from the house or whether the suspect was drunk or high.

The arrest stunned Zabawa's employers and co-workers on the Woodville Township hog farm.

Peter Zimmerman, an owner of the family farm, said Zabawa was a responsible and skilled swine technician who had worked at the farm since July, caring for newborn piglets. Zabawa was mechanically inclined and was willing to stay late to fix whatever needed it, Zimmerman said.

"He was an ordinary, run-of-the-mill guy who showed up on time, did the work, did a good job, got along with his co-workers, and was just kind of a quiet guy," Zimmerman said. "We didn't have any reason to think badly of him."

He said he never saw indications of mental problems or violence in Zabawa.

"It really is out of character," Zimmerman said.

"Both my wife and my daughter have worked with him in the past at my operation," Zimmerman said. "They've never had any problems with him, had no trouble working with him. We have quite a few employees, and there was never anything about him that was brought to my attention, or that would really give me reason to worry."

At a news conference Sunday, Milbrath said the suspect went to the Krugers' neighbor's house and stole an old farm pickup, which he drove to his home -- about 15 miles from the Krugers'.

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