DULUTH – A 52-year-old Chisholm man was charged with second-degree murder Thursday in the killing of a woman in the northeastern Minnesota town that remained a mystery for 34 years.
Chisholm police and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) on Wednesday arrested Michael Carbo Jr., who was identified as a suspect using public genealogy databases to find a DNA match to evidence collected from the bed where 38-year-old Nancy Daugherty was sexually assaulted and strangled in 1986.
Carbo lived less than a mile away from Daugherty at the time of her death and attended school with her children, according to the criminal complaint filed in St. Louis County. He was 18 years old at the time.
"We are gratified to be able to provide some answers to this family and this community after all of these years," Chisholm Police Chief Vern Manner said Wednesday. "We are grateful as well to the BCA and so many assisting law enforcement agencies that continued to work this case over more than three decades."
Just after midnight on July 16, 1986, Daugherty's boyfriend dropped her off at her Chisholm house, charges said. Daugherty, who worked as an aide in a local nursing home, was supposed to move to the Twin Cities the next morning to attend school to become a paramedic. But her boyfriend was unable to make contact with her and eventually called the police.
Officers found Daugherty nude in bed with a pillow covering her face, and there was evidence of a struggle. Charges said police found male DNA samples from bodily fluids and Daugherty's fingernail.
"This is the first case in Minnesota that has been solved, or where an arrest has been made, using this technology," BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said at a news conference Wednesday.
Gina Haggard, Daugherty's daughter, stood solemnly beside officials as they announced the potential breakthrough in the case, which she has hoped for years might bring closure to her family.
"Everyone that knew her will say the same: She was happy, loved to take care of people and loved her family until 1986, when she was taken from us," Haggard said in a statement that Manner read aloud Wednesday. "There are no words to describe the terrible holes that were left in so many lives, including my own."
Carbo, who has no major criminal history, is being held in St. Louis County jail on $1 million bail. His initial court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 6.
Scott Erickson was a young patrol officer for the Chisholm police in 1986. He remembers the death of Daugherty, a mother of two, as "a shock to the whole community."
"Things like that don't happen that often in a small community," said Erickson, who retired as police chief in 2010. "Everybody pretty much knows everybody."
During Erickson's tenure, Chisholm police helped conduct more than 100 DNA tests, searching for a match. The former officer once followed a lead to Texas, where he again met a dead end.
Agencies offered various rewards for information about Daugherty's death, as much as $50,000 at one point. Officials held onto hope that improving technology might produce an answer. Given the evidence they had, Erickson said the case should have been "easily solved."
Chisholm police worked with the BCA in early 2020 to submit the DNA evidence to Parabon NanoLabs, a company that analyzes public genealogy databases for clues about a suspect's lineage. The process was similar to the 2018 arrest of the infamous Golden State Killer, who pleaded guilty last month to committing numerous murders and rapes in California during the 1970s and 1980s.
Once Parabon identified Carbo, who was never previously a suspect, officers obtained samples of his DNA by collecting a bag of garbage they watched him throw in a dumpster. It matched the evidence collected from Daugherty's house more than three decades prior.
"I'm amazed that he would have been able to keep it within himself for all those years, because not many people can do something that horrific and not tell somebody," Erickson said.
According to old news articles, the Daugherty case was complicated because she'd hosted a party to celebrate her daughter's high school graduation shortly before her death. That meant lots of extra fingerprints and DNA around the house.
In her statement read at Wednesday's news conference, Haggard mourned the many milestones her mother has missed in the years since: her college graduation, her wedding, the birth of her children.
"After 30-plus years, I had to start wondering if I would ever know," the statement read, thanking the officers who continued to pursue investigations. "My mom can rest now."