Dawn Marie Pfister was a 34-year-old “free spirit” and the mother of two young children from Elkhorn, Wis.
Her boyfriend Matthew Vincent Serbus once lived in St. Paul and had a long criminal record for theft, robbery and drugs.
Now, Pfister’s family and friends are searching for answers about how and why the couple died of gunshot wounds after leading police on a high-speed chase on Hwy. 212 from Chaska to Eden Prairie on Friday morning.
The Hennepin County medical examiner’s office identified the two Saturday.
Officials have not released many details about the incident or explained what prompted police to open fire. The shots came after the couple’s Saab crashed into a wall and they appeared to be fleeing the scene.
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the incident, will not release details until all witnesses and law enforcement officers involved are interviewed, spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said Saturday.
Four officers — one from the State Patrol, two from Chaska police and one from Carver County — were placed on standard administrative leave pending the investigation.
Family, friends mourn
Bridget Johnson, Pfister’s stepmother, said the family was stunned by her loss.
“They, too, are looking for answers,” Johnson said. “Her father, mother, grandparents and sister are in total shock.”
Johnson, who lives in Dallas, described her stepdaughter as “a free spirit and an old soul,” who loved music, dancing and her family. Pfister was the mother of two children, ages 12 and 9.
According to Pfister’s Facebook page, she had started a relationship with Serbus only last month.
As word of her death spread on Saturday, friends mourned her loss on the social media site, describing her as “a beautiful person” with a “kind heart.”
Johnson said her husband, Michael Kennedy, and family “are asking for privacy at this time.”
Police records show that Pfister had been arrested in 2013 on drug-related charges, and that Olmsted County had issued warrants for the arrest of Pfister and Serbus. Officials would not say when or why the warrants were issued, but they were pending.
Serbus, 36, had a criminal record dating to at least 1999, including theft, burglary and drug-related cases. In 2006, a third-degree murder charge against Serbus was dropped in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman. Serbus and the woman had bought and used heroin and crack cocaine, and the woman was later found dead from an overdose at a Richfield motel.
A frantic scene
On Friday, Pfister and Serbus were involved in a chase that reached speeds of 80 to 90 miles per hour and unfolded during the morning rush hour, turning the busy freeway into a crime scene.
It started at 7:30 a.m., when authorities got a report that a red Saab was speeding east on Hwy. 212 in eastern Carver County, according to the State Patrol.
The Saab then rear-ended a vehicle driven by Sandra Bargmann of Glencoe, Minn., at Hwy. 212 and County Road 43. The Saab drove away with its front hood up.
“All of a sudden, boom! And that was it,” Bargmann said Friday of the rear-end crash. “Just like he fell out of the sky.”
Authorities spotted the car on eastbound 212 and began pursuit. Other officers placed stop sticks on the highway just east of Audubon Road, puncturing at least two of the Saab’s tires.
The driver lost control and crashed into a noise wall between Hwy. 101 and Dell Road. Pfister and Serbus emerged from the Saab, authorities said. Traffic cameras show that a struggle ensued.
That’s when the shots were fired.
Fox 9 News reported that Pfister’s mother, Jill Walsh, was told by police Friday that her daughter had died in the shooting and that she could not see the body until the investigation was complete.
“It’s hearsay on the Internet that he had a gun to her head,” Walsh was quoted as saying. “That’s not what I see on this video … We need to find out what happened.”
Staff writer Joy Powell contributed to this report.