A southern Minnesota woman was charged Friday with killing her 16-year-old daughter two weeks ago, then partially dismembering her body and putting it in the trunk of her car before abruptly moving to Iowa.
Julie Mae Terrell, 36, of Madison Lake, was charged with second-degree murder a day after authorities arrested her when they found the body in the car in Mason City, Iowa.
Lauralee Eve Terrell was killed with a shotgun blast to the head, allegedly during an argument. Her mother is being held in jail in Mason City, awaiting extradition to Mankato, where the charges were filed.
The daughter's body was taken to the Ramsey County medical examiner's office in St. Paul for an autopsy.
"Lauralee was a pretty bright kid, outgoing, pleasant, nice to people," said Bob Bombier, manager of the Pet Expo store in Mankato, where the girl had worked for two years. "We knew she had trouble at home. She didn't have much of a chance."
Julie Terrell's boyfriend notified the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office in Mankato Wednesday afternoon that Terrell had called him from Iowa, asking for help in disposing of her daughter's body.
Mason City police spotted Terrell's car. Authorities got a warrant, searched the car and found the body, then arrested Terrell.
According to the criminal complaint, Terrell told authorities that she was still in bed early March 1 when her daughter confronted her with a shotgun. The two struggled and the gun went off, killing the girl.
"We don't believe it was accidental," said Capt. Will Purvis, of the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office. "This is a very sad situation."
Terrell told authorities that she cut off her daughter's legs, wrapped the body in a blanket and put it in the trunk of her car, then called a friend to help her move to Mason City, according to the complaint.
The complaint said the boyfriend, Michael Scott Hansen, 35, Inver Grove Heights, was not present and did not know about the shooting.
She hoped for college
Lauralee Terrell was a sophomore at St. Clair High School, about
15 miles south of Madison Lake. On Friday, counselors met with students and teachers to help them deal with the killing, Superintendent Rick Linnell said.
"She was an intelligent girl, very caring," he said. "She helped tutor other students, and I learned today that when she graduated she wanted to go to college and become a veterinarian."
She began working at Pet Expo two years ago in a school program matching students with businesses to give them work experience.
"She really liked it here, and we liked her," Bombier said. "When she turned 16, I gave her a job here, working weekends and about two afternoons a week after school."
For the past two or three months, "we knew she had troubles a home with her mother. Sometimes she had trouble getting a ride to work," he said. "Her mom would call her at the store, and sometimes she came in and caused problems, and we finally asked her to leave."
March 1 was payday, and Lauralee didn't pick up her paycheck as she usually did, Bombier said. "But two or three days later, her mother drove up to the store to get Lauralee's check. I told her I'd hold it until Lauralee came in," he said. "It never occurred to me, well, what was in the trunk."
He said store employees have been angered by reports that the girl might have threatened her mother with the shotgun.
"That's not the Lauralee we knew. That's just not her."
The store has started a memorial fund to help pay for funeral and burial costs: Lauralee Terrell Fund, c/o Minnesota Valley Credit Union, P.O. Box 4399, Mankato, MN 56002-4399.