Within minutes of the confirmation that the body found Monday near Lonsdale, Minn., was that of missing University of Minnesota student Anarae Schunk, condolences began pouring onto a Facebook page created to help find her.
People who knew the 20-year-old woman or had children who went to school with her shared their memories. People who helped search for her or had never met her shared their condolences with her family.
“My deepest sympathies for the loss of Anarae,” Linda Wurst Rempfert posted. “She was such a smart, beautiful and caring young woman and I am so sorry she will not have a chance to carry out her life’s plans.”
Rempfert, of Savage, said by phone that her daughter went to high school and college with Schunk. She and her husband helped search for her Sunday at UMore Park in Rosemount and Monday in Apple Valley. “I just felt so helpless here,” she said. “I did want there to be closure for the family.”
Rosemount police announced about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday that the body found in a grassy ditch beside a gravel road in the 7000 block of W. 60th Street in Wheatland Township in Rice County was that of Schunk. That is about 30 miles from Rosemount, where Schunk’s trail went cold.
The body, found by county crews mowing the ditch on the south side of the road, was taken to the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office to determine the cause and manner of death. About 9 p.m. that night, police asked Schunk’s parents for her dental records.
On the afternoon of Sept. 21, Schunk’s best friend dropped her off at a Caribou Coffee in Burnsville. She was going to meet up with her ex-boyfriend, Shavelle Chavez-Nelson, to try to get back $5,000 she had loaned him while they were dating. She was seen on video surveillance going into Nina’s Grill in Burnsville that evening.
Chavez-Nelson, 31, is accused of fatally shooting a man outside the bar about 2 a.m. Sunday. Chavez-Nelson, also known as Anthony Lee Nelson, was charged last week with second-degree murder in the death of Palagor Jobi, 23, of Savage.
Nelson’s girlfriend, Ashley Conrade, 24, of Rosemount, was charged with aiding an offender for allegedly harboring him until his arrest on Sept. 24. They and others could face additional charges in Schunk’s death when the case is presented to prosecutors.
Rosemount police are seeking help from the public in the investigation. Please contact the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 651-438-4720.
The criminal complaints in the Burnsville case said Conrade told police that after the shooting, she, Nelson and Schunk returned to her townhouse, where Schunk’s trail ended.
Tyson Schunk, Anarae Schunk’s eldest brother, said Sunday that Burnsville police told the family that investigators found his sister’s white jacket at an apartment in St. Paul and a knife connected with the case on the roof of that apartment building.
The jacket was covered in blood and had 18 to 20 holes that investigators believed could indicate stab wounds.
He and his family had pleaded Sunday for volunteers to search Lilydale Regional Park that day. On Monday, he said police apparently had found additional evidence in an industrial and farmland area of Apple Valley and at Lebanon Hills Park in Eagan. The family asked volunteers to search those areas, too, and they had been trying to set up additional searches in the following days.
Steve Matula, of Eden Prairie, whose sister, Mandy Matula, disappeared in May just before her ex-boyfriend committed suicide and who has not been found, helped the family organize those searches.
“I’m happy and sad for the family at the same time,” Matula said after learning the news that Anarae Schunk was dead.
“They’re experiencing pain, sorrow, loss,” Matula said of her family. “They want justice for Shavelle. They want him behind bars. They’re going though a lot more emotions right now than what me and my family are going through. They have that closure, but knowing it’s their daughter, it’s a whole ’nother ballgame of emotions.”
An ill-fated bond
Anarae Schunk was studying sociology at the University of Minnesota and had moved about a month ago from her parents’ Burnsville home to the University Commons apartments near campus.
She spoke at her graduation from Burnsville High School in 2011 and was a chess whiz who received her highest rating at a tournament in Duluth in August. She had played in U.S. Chess Federation tournaments since 2005. She attended Metcalf Junior High School in Burnsville, a scholastic chess powerhouse, and had competed in scholastic tournaments around the country.
Nelson has a lengthy criminal record that includes convictions for armed robbery, sexual assault, drug sales and numerous other crimes.
He was released from the Hennepin County jail Sept. 19 on $25,000 bail after being accused of forcing his way into a Richfield home with a gun in June. He was charged in that case with first-degree burglary and illegally possessing a gun.
Schunk had met him at a bus stop and they had dated for a few months last year. They broke up last Thanksgiving after she learned that he was living with another woman — not Conrade — and that he had a child with her.
The jacket and knife were found at an apartment where that woman was living, Schunk’s family said.
Her brother Owen Schunk described his sister as a smart, caring young woman who believed she could help Nelson “get his life back on track.”
‘Missed so very much’
The area where Schunk’s body was found Monday is a rural and remote landscape with farms dotting the landscape and buildings set far back from the road. The area showed evidence Tuesday of authorities tromping down the grass and tire tracks from their vehicles. County crews continued mowing the ditch Tuesday, obliterating many of the signs that anyone was ever there.
Family members and friends gathered at Schunk’s parents’ home after learning the news Tuesday. They did not want to comment, but posted a link to the news story on the Facebook page and said, simply: “She will be missed so very much.”