Saturday: Online nanny ad ends in slaying

A St. Olaf grad went to meet someone in Savage about a job she saw posted on Craigslist. Her body was found in her car trunk.

Katherine Ann Olson had answered online ads for nanny jobs before without trouble. But one posted on the popular Craigslist.org website for a job in Savage may have cost the young woman her life.

Olson, 24, was found dead in the trunk of her car at a Burnsville park late Friday night. She was last seen by friends on Thursday morning, when she went to meet someone in Savage about the job, which authorities said she had found on Craigslist.

A 19-year-old Savage man who police believe placed the ad is being held in the Scott County jail pending charges. Authorities did not release his name but said charges could be filed as soon as today.

Olson graduated from Park High School of Cottage Grove in 2002, where she was co-valedictorian, and from St. Olaf College in 2006. She was a theater and Hispanic studies major whose family said had taken nanny jobs at least twice before, including a job in Turkey, after answering online ads.

Olson's family gathered in front of its Cottage Grove home Saturday afternoon to share stories of a vivacious young woman "who was a joy, who trusted people."

She had recently finished playing Maria in her church community theater's production of "The Sound of Music," and was searching for a career to match her interests and energies.

Family members said they'd had misgivings about her finding jobs online. But she never seemed to worry.

"She always assumed the best in other people," said her father. "She assumed the best of this appointment Thursday morning. And, if it didn't work out, she assumed she could turn around and go home."

Craigslist.org, an online bulletin board, has fallen under the watch of law enforcement in recent years because of prostitution ads and its use to set up robberies, but an Internet search revealed no other homicides connected to the site.

First purse, then bloody towel

Savage police Capt. David Muelken gave this account of Olson's death:

A resident told a Savage Public Works employee about a purse found in a garbage can at Pacer Park. That employee notified police, and an officer got the purse, which contained things belonging to Olson.

At first, it appeared to be a theft. Police called Olson's home and left a message telling her they had her purse.

About 5 p.m. Friday, Olson's roommate returned the call and told police she hadn't been seen since 8 a.m. Thursday.

Police went back to Pacer Park and found a garbage bag in the container. Inside the bag was a "significantly bloody towel."

An extensive search of the park area yielded no clues.

Savage police went through Olson's cell phone and credit card records to see if she had used either recently. They found nothing.

Then they got some information that "led them in a direction," Muelken said.

Meanwhile, a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter was called in to help. The pilot noticed a car in the parking lot of Rudy Kraemer Nature Preserve in Burnsville, which is a few blocks away from Pacer Park.

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