A gun box found in a rest-stop trash bin gave police the break they needed to arrest the victim's ex-girlfriend.
After Rochelle Inselman and boyfriend Bret Struck broke up in 2004, she appeared to be obsessed with him, with a history of threatening and harassing behavior. She hacked into his Facebook account and sent defamatory e-mails to friends and family, police said Wednesday; she even stole his identity to apply for four or five credit cards in the past two years.
On Feb. 12, things allegedly turned lethal. Inselman, 39, apparently gained entrance to Struck's house in Brooklyn Center and shot him multiple times, according to murder charges filed Wednesday. Inspector Tim Gannon said that Struck, 42, had no idea she had violent plans for him, and that there was nothing he could have done to protect himself.
"This was an unprovoked, heinous crime by his ex-girlfriend," Gannon said at a news conference announcing the charges. "The motivation is unknown because she's not communicating with us."
From the crime scene, investigators immediately knew Struck's death wasn't random. They followed some false leads in the complicated case but got their break when a custodian found a gun box in the trash at a rest stop in Clearwater in February that police traced to Inselman, said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. She was arrested Wednesday.
Struck's mother and two brothers praised police for their persistence in pursuing the case and for bringing them some closure. Dan Struck said police had to sort through a million little pieces to bring charges against a woman who they believed had been long gone from Bret Struck's life.
"Bret was a kind, sweet kid that would give you the shirt off his back," Dan Struck said of his younger brother.
No forced entry at his home
Inselman, of Eden Valley, Minn., is charged with second-degree murder. Struck had been dead for about a day before a co-worker checked on him Feb. 13 after he didn't show up for work at a downtown Minneapolis law firm, where he did computer data work, said his brother Mike. He was found on the kitchen floor.
When police arrived, they saw several shell casings from a 9mm handgun. There were no signs of forced entry.
During the investigation, police learned about Inselman's longtime obsession with Struck, according to the criminal complaint. Police couldn't establish that he had initiated any direct contact with her since their breakup in 2004.
"I've never seen a pattern of stalking like this in my years of law enforcement," Gannon said.
Don Struck said that the couple lived together for several years and that the breakup was mutual, but "Bret had to get out of the relationship."
In February, police talked to Inselman, who said she hadn't been in the Twin Cities any time after November. She added that she rarely leaves her house, the complaint said.
However, the investigation revealed she was in the area of Struck's home four times in the week before the killing. Investigators talked to a witness in April who said he had sold a 9mm gun to Inselman, the complaint said. She told the person she needed the gun because of an ex-boyfriend, according to the charges.
In February, police recovered a gun box containing gun accessories and an original manufacturer's test-fired casing from the trash in Clearwater. Identifying information traced back to the gun sold to Inselman, the complaint said.
Iola Struck, Bret's mother, said she hadn't known that Inselman had allegedly continued to bother her son all these years. When she learned who was charged in his death, she simply said, "Oh, my Lord."
Mike Struck said any of his brother's friends would say he was one of the nicest guys around. The company where he worked sent a busload of mourners to the funeral, he said.
"He didn't have any enemies in the world, except one," he said.
David Chanen • 612-673-4482