Deoloris "Dee" Dunn, Minneapolis' first black female police officer, died recently without knowing who shot her 20-year-old daughter in November 1987 and left her body in a frozen Brooklyn Park cornfield.
Now the death in January of the 74-year-old pioneer for women and minorities on the Minneapolis police force has prompted the revival of a long-dormant criminal investigation into the killing.
Brooklyn Park Deputy Police Chief Mark Bruley heard last week about Dunn's memorial service Saturday in St. Paul and gave the inactive investigation into Tahrita McKinnies' killing another look.
"I looked at the case and no one was arrested or charged for the murder," Bruley said. "I am assigning the case to one of my supervisors for a more thorough case review to see if any opportunity exists to conduct any new follow-up."
Bruley added Monday that "we have lots of new DNA options that ... could potentially be used to take another look at this case," whose file totals roughly 1,500 pages.
Several days after McKinnies was shot, Brooklyn Park's then-police chief Don Davis said officers examined the possibility that McKinnies died because gang members thought she was a police informant for illicit drug activities. "We've had all kinds of speculative leads, and all the options are open at this point," Davis said.
Bruley said Monday that a motive remains unclear, "but rape was believed to be involved."
McKinnies was seven months pregnant when she was shot several times in the head. Passersby came upon her partly clothed and barefoot body in the field near 89th and Zane avenues N. with her hands tied behind her back.
Car tracks near the body indicated that it "may have been dumped from a vehicle," police reports released Monday to the Star Tribune read. Undisturbed snow in the tracks suggested McKinnies had been dead for at least several days before her body was located.
A troubled youngster, McKinnies fought with her mother, who was divorced at the time, often ran away from home and was put into several counseling programs for troubled teens, where she was considered a troublemaker.
As an adult, she accrued a number of aliases and rang up one arrest after another, mainly for prostitution, but for more serious crimes as well, including armed robbery. An armed robbery case was pending in Hennepin County when she died. She was accused of pulling an 8-inch kitchen knife on a man six months before she was killed, forcing him to drive her into an alley, then robbing him of $100 in cash and a $1,000 diamond ring.
McKinnies' mother, whose last name also was McKinnies before remarrying, said that before her daughter was killed they kept in touch by phone. "She'd call me whenever it hit her. Sometimes it was daily. Sometimes it was a couple of months before I'd hear from her," Dunn told the Star Tribune shortly after her daughter's death.
Dunn said she knew little of her daughter's troubles with the law and would think of her only "as my daughter. She was just a fun-loving daughter. That's a mother's perspective."
Melissa Posten said Monday that she and her cousin Tahrita "were almost like sisters. We ran away together, we got locked up together."
Posten said she suspected that a man who acted as Tahrita's pimp could be the killer.
"I'm glad they are reopening the case because it's been on my mind since Tahrita died," Posten said. "I hope they find out who did it."
When Tahrita left home, her mother leaned on her faith.
"It's something that I think all parents look at when the children are not behaving as you'd wish them to," she said. "In your heart you're constantly praying."