A college freshman who was found dead in a farm field in western Minnesota was left there by a man who panicked after the woman passed out while they injected methamphetamine together, according to a statement released Tuesday evening by Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson.
The man, Nickolas McArdell, 21, of Starbuck, Minn., told investigators he hid Laura Ann Schwendemann’s body in a cornfield after she overdosed; she was found two weeks later by a farmer during the harvest.
He faces up to a year in prison for hiding the body, but won’t be prosecuted for murder because the evidence doesn’t support it, Larson said.
The Midwest medical examiner’s office in Anoka on Tuesday released autopsy results that said it detected methamphetamine and THC, an active component in marijuana, in her body.
The autopsy, Larson added, found nothing other than the methamphetamine consumption that could have caused Schwendemann’s death. It’s only because the circumstances of her final moments are unknown that the official cause and manner of her death will be listed as undetermined, Larson wrote.
Schwendemann did not have any life-threatening diseases, nor had she sustained any traumatic or abusive injuries before death, he wrote.
Larson’s statement included a heartfelt plea for drug dealers to consider the damage they’re doing.
“How many lives must be taken?” the statement asked. “How many parents must bury their children?”
Larson also bemoaned the fact that McArdell either didn’t know or didn’t care that the state had recently passed the Good Samaritan law, which would have shielded him from prosecution for methamphetamine possession if he had called 911 to report her overdose. “He chose otherwise, and he will be prosecuted for that decision,” the statement read.
A farmer in Orange Township came upon Schwendemann’s body as he drove his combine in the field of corn.
The student at the University of Minnesota, Morris, who had lived in nearby Hancock and Starbuck, had been missing since the night of Oct. 14.
Sandra Olson-Loy, vice chancellor for student affairs at Minnesota, Morris, said Schwendemann grew up in west-central Minnesota, attended Minnewaska High School in Pope County, took classes at Alexandria Technical and Community College and finished high school through the Runestone Regional Learning Center in Alexandria. At Morris, she lived off-campus and was majoring in management, with a focus on financial and organizational management.