Diane Johnson said she was uneasy when her son asked her a few months ago whether it was OK to let a homeless man move into his Oak Park Heights townhouse.
"I said, 'Don't do it, Nils, just don't do it,' " she recalled this week.
But the man apparently stayed there anyway.
Late Thursday, that man, Nathan Nigel Anthony Eldredge, 24, was charged in Washington County District Court with second-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old Nils Johnson, whose bloodied body was found in a closet of his townhouse Tuesday. The Ramsey County medical examiner determined that Johnson bled to death from cuts inflicted in a beating.
Eldredge, who had been on the run, was arrested early Friday by authorities in Matteson, Ill., according to the county attorney's office.
Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents were in Illinois Friday to interview Eldredge and begin the process for extradition.
According to a criminal complaint:
Police found Johnson's body sitting upright in a closet beneath a pile of clothing and behind a dresser. His hands were bound by tape. A plastic bag covered his head, with tape wrapped around his neck. His eyes and mouth also were taped.
Diane Johnson said she believes Eldredge may have taken advantage of her son, who suffered from a severe mental illness and worked as a cook at the Oak Park Heights McDonald's for the past two years.
"Nils was a type of a man who would've given anybody almost anything they needed," Diane Johnson said of her son, who enjoyed flying a remote-controlled helicopter and learning about space travel. He aspired to be a pilot. "I don't know what brought this all about."
Diane Johnson said she became concerned about her son Sunday, when she hadn't heard from him for days. When she went to his home, about a mile from her Stillwater residence, to check on him, she was met by a man and a woman who wouldn't let her inside, she said. So she called police.
Officers went to the townhouse that day and questioned Eldredge and the woman, according to the complaint. Eldredge told officers Nils Johnson gave them permission to stay there and use his truck. But when police didn't find Johnson at the home, they began a missing person investigation.
Tuesday morning, officers returned and found Johnson's body in the closet.
Neighbors told investigators they saw Eldredge, who is "homeless" and "has family in Tennessee," hanging around the townhouse, and said he was known to take advantage of Johnson, the complaint said.
Investigators later obtained texts allegedly sent by Eldredge on April 11 that said "some [expletive] things are happen [sic] man," and "I feel responsible."
Blair Emerson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.