May 31: Family asks for public's help in 25-year-old case of missing girl

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 31, 2014 - 5:36 PM
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Susan Pagnac discussed the disappearance of her 13-year-old daughter, Amy, in 1989, and the recent police search of her home in Maple Grove.

Photo: Photos by JIM GEHRZ • jgehrz@startribune.com,

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For the first time since police and FBI investigators dug up their yard and searched their house, Amy Sue Pagnac’s mother and sister spoke Saturday about the renewed interest in the missing girl’s case and asked for the public’s help.

It’s been nearly 25 years since the Maple Grove 13-year-old vanished in 1989, but the cold case resurfaced two weeks ago when police issued a sealed search warrant of the home.

“They went through everything,” said her mother, Susan Pagnac. “What’s really important is law enforcement continues to work on this. I want them to follow through completely because that’s the only way it’s going to get my oldest child back.”

‘Trying to play catch-up’

She and daughter Susan Jr., 33, who is five years younger than Amy, met Saturday at Missing Children Minnesota, a Minneapolis nonprofit, to ask for the public’s help in the case. While public scrutiny is difficult to handle, they said they hope increased attention will help them finally find Amy.

“They’re trying to play catch-up 25 years later,” Susan Pagnac Jr. said about the investigation.

Investigators sorted through every room in the house, pulling items from closets and cabinets, leaving items in boxes in their living room, they said. A shed in their fenced-in back yard was moved and a concrete patio was torn up. Paver stones by their front door were moved presumably to dig the area.

The family said they don’t know what police were looking for, but they think the search was just to rule out one step in a process that should have been done decades ago.

“If it brings Amy home, who cares?” her mother said. “None of these things were done when Amy went missing.”

Maple Grove police have declined to say why they searched the house, what they looked for and if they found anything. They said Friday they had nothing more to say about the case and gave no indication of when they might.

On May 18, police issued the search warrant and searched the home until May 24. They also used a backhoe to dig in the yard.

Police have said Amy could be alive or dead. No suspects have been identified.

On Aug. 5, 1989, Marshall Midden, Susan Pagnac’s husband, told police that he and Amy went to tend crops at the family’s farm in Isanti County about noon and were returning home about 5 p.m. when he stopped at an Osseo gas station 2 miles from their home. He told police he used the bathroom, came outside to find the car empty and assumed that Amy was in the women’s bathroom. But, he said, she had vanished.

Midden was working on putting their house back together Saturday, Susan Pagnac said, and wasn’t at the interview. But the family believes Amy is alive. Her 38th birthday would be June 15.

Missing Children Minnesota director Carol Watson has known Susan Pagnac since the case opened in 1989. They also both served on a state task force on missing children in 1990, commissioned in response to the kidnapping of Jacob Wetterling nearly two months after Amy disappeared.

Watson said that any public scrutiny on the family or Midden in particular is unfair. While police categorized him as a stepfather, he’s the only father Amy ever knew, part of the family since she was an infant, Watson said.

“We caution not to jump to conclusions why they’re searching and what they’re searching for,” Watson said. “We’re just excited there’s new activity on the case.”

So is the family. When asked what she’d say to her sister today, Susan Jr. said she’d be happy to finally have her home.

“I think I’d just hold her,” she said, tearing up. “[And say] ‘I’m glad you’re home.’ ”

 

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141 Twitter: @kellystrib

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  • Susan Pagnac Jr., with her mom, wept while discussing her sister. The family hopes the increased attention on the case will help them find Amy.

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