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She said she helped Nelson carry a plastic tub containing the young woman’s body to the trunk of her car later that afternoon. The trunk was already lined with black plastic bags that Nelson and Conrade had bought earlier that day.
The kitchen floor was cleaned with bleach they also had bought, but investigators used special lights to find blood.
Schunk’s naked body was found Sept. 30 in a roadside ditch near Lonsdale, Minn. Someone had tried to start a fire; there were ashes, charred grass and cornstalks on and around her body.
Autopsy: Death in 20 seconds
An autopsy showed that the deadly stab wounds severed Schunk’s carotid arteries and jugular veins, and slit the bottom of her throat, Backstrom said. The medical examiner said Schunk couldn’t have lived more than 20 seconds with those wounds, he said.
Investigators learned on Sept. 27 that on Sept. 22, Nelson had taken several black plastic garbage bags filled with items to his estranged wife’s apartment in St. Paul, the charges say. He allegedly threw a knife taken from Conrade’s kitchen onto the roof of the apartment building.
An analysis by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension found Schunk’s blood on the knife and Conrade’s footprints on the bags. In the bags were Schunk’s bloody jacket, jeans and underwear; blood-splattered socks with “wearer-DNA” that matched Nelson and bloody flip-flops that Conrade said were hers.
There also were two yellow rubber gloves. The predominant blood found there matched Schunk. Nelson and Conrade couldn’t be excluded as matching other blood, but 99.94 percent of the world’s population could, Backstrom said.
“We do not know the reasons why Anarae Schunk was killed … and we may never know,” Backstrom said. “However we do not have to prove the motive behind [her] murder to convict the persons responsible for committing it. And by the filing of these criminal charges, evidence exists that those persons are [Nelson and Conrade].”
Backstrom said the investigation into Schunk’s disappearance and death was one of the largest and most extensive in Dakota County history. He said the Jobi and Schunk cases are interconnected and, “our hope is to resolve the Jobi prosecution first,” he said. “But again, we don’t always control the timing of these events.”
Schunk met Nelson, who has a long and violent criminal past, at a bus stop in the summer of 2012. He told her he was a hedge fund manager. Even after she learned about his real background, she believed she could help him turn his life around, her family said.
She was an accomplished tournament chess player and was described by her professors and teachers who spoke at her memorial service as a smart young woman who could have changed the world.
“From all that I have learned about Anarae Schunk … she was a lovely, intelligent and kindhearted young woman,” Backstrom said. “She may, unfortunately, have been a little too kindhearted when she began a relationship with the man who has been charged with her murder.”
He said the Schunk family has his sympathies and those of many people in Dakota County and around the state.
“But [her family] have also told me that they don’t simply want my sympathies, they want justice,” Backstrom said. “And while we can’t bring Anarae back, we can and we will do everything in our power to bring justice to the persons responsible for her death.”
Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284