As volunteers searched fields and empty spaces in Lilydale and Rosemount for any sign of missing U student Anarae Schunk, family members said Sunday that the 20-year-old’s jacket had been found covered in blood and punctured by 18 to 20 holes investigators believe could indicate stab wounds.
Sunday afternoon, Schunk’s brother, Tyson, pleaded for volunteers to search an area near Lilydale and Pickerel Lake for his sister.
“We need to find her,” Tyson Schunk said shortly after the family posted a Facebook message asking for help. The post included a map with the Lilydale area circled in red. He and his brother Owen Schunk also asked people to search near a quarry at Dakota County Road 46 and Shannon Parkway and the adjacent UMore Park.
The family said Monday morning that Steve Matula, brother of missing Eden Prairie woman Mandy Matula, has offered his help with the search, although his role is still uncertain.
Schunk has been missing since early Sept. 22 when she apparently left Nina’s Grill in Burnsville with her ex-boyfriend, Shavelle Chavez-Nelson, and Chavez-Nelson’s current girlfriend, Ashley Conrade, 24, of Rosemount. Chavez-Nelson has been charged with shooting and killing a man outside the bar shortly before 2 a.m. that day.
Burnsville police told the family Friday night that they believe the University of Minnesota junior is dead, but haven’t publicly elaborated on what led them to that conclusion.
Tyson Schunk said police found his sister’s white jacket with a U logo at the apartment of Chavez-Nelson’s ex-wife in St. Paul. Police told the family that a knife connected with the case was found on the roof of the apartment building.
Tyson Schunk said his sister was seen in the area of the apartment about 7 p.m. Sept. 21. Family members said DNA results haven’t come back yet on the blood on the jacket or whether any evidence was found on the knife.
Although police told the family that they are certain that Schunk was killed, her brothers and sister-in-law said they won’t be 100 percent certain until they find her body.
Chavez-Nelson, 31, was charged Thursday with second-degree murder in the death of Palagor Obang Jobi, 23, of Savage. Conrade is charged with aiding an offender for harboring Chavez-Nelson until his arrest.
If and when Schunk or her body is found, Chavez-Nelson and Conrade could face additional charges.
“We can’t [add charges] in Minnesota without a body,” Tyson Schunk said. “We’ve got to find it.”
Volunteers take to the parks
In Lilydale Regional Park, a group of young people scrambled up a steep embankment beneath St. Paul’s High Bridge, looking for any piece of evidence that could be linked to Anarae Schunk.
“I can’t imagine someone would carry someone up this high. It’s hard getting up here myself,” said Keren Marin as she braced herself against a tree.
Down below, Kyle Klaphake peeked beneath a pile of blankets in an abandoned homeless encampment at the base of the bridge, kicking away abandoned spray paint cans and beer bottles. Bicyclists and dog walkers whizzed by on the paths below.
After searching areas that they thought probable, some of the 20 or so volunteers hopped in the back of Steven Matula’s pickup to check out another location.
His sister, Mandy Matula, also is missing. The 24-year-old disappeared in early May, and her ex-boyfriend, David Marshall Roe, who was suspected in her disappearance, committed suicide soon after she went missing.
“I don’t want other families to feel the same pain, worry and loneliness,” Matula said. “I don’t want anyone to feel that.”
Even with the high volume of traffic in Lilydale Park, searchers knew that finding Schunk there could be a long shot.
“It’s a good place to start, said Jairo Marin. “Just being able to get out of the house and do something to help is worth it.”
‘We need to take charge’
Schunk dated Chavez-Nelson for a few months last year. She broke it off at Thanksgiving after she learned that he was living with another woman — not Conrade — with whom he had a child.
Schunk had reconnected with Chavez-Nelson recently in an attempt to get back $5,000 she had loaned to him while they were dating.
Schunk was seen on video surveillance going into Nina’s Grill with Chavez-Nelson. The criminal complaints filed in Dakota County District Court said Conrade told police that she, Chavez-Nelson and Schunk went back to her home after the shooting about 2 a.m. Sept. 22. There is no other information about where Schunk went from there.
Chavez-Nelson has a lengthy criminal record and most recently served time for first-degree aggravated robbery before being released in December 2011. He was charged in June with first-degree burglary for allegedly robbing a Richfield family with a gun. He was released from the Hennepin County jail after posting $25,000 bond on Sept. 19.
The criminal complaints against Chavez-Nelson and Conrade give this account: Chavez-Nelson argued with Jobi after he saw Jobi talking to Conrade. The argument escalated when Jobi punched Chavez-Nelson in the face in the bar parking lot. Chavez-Nelson pulled a gun and shot Jobi eight times. The complaints said Conrade told police that Chavez-Nelson drove around the block and stopped in a cul-de-sac where he could see the parking lot. When police arrived, he swore, punched the steering wheel and drove the three of them — including Schunk — back to Rosemount.
Authorities have said that neither Chavez-Nelson or Conrade are saying what happened to Schunk after that.
Schunk lived with her parents in Burnsville before moving to the University Commons student housing near the university about a month ago. Friends and family members described her as a smart, with-it young woman who cared deeply about others and tried to help Chavez-Nelson “turn his life around,” while they were dating.
“She was such a smart girl,” said her friend Nick Hulsether, while he took a breather from searching in Lilydale Regional Park alongside his sister Anne. “A very caring girl.”