Unsolved homicides leave Cromwell community shakenMost people in Cromwell are locking their doors these days – some of them for the very first time. News spread quickly Sunday of an alleged double homicide just outside the city limits of the small rural community, made up primarily of close friends and relatives. The grief of losing two of their own was eclipsed only by the fear of the person or persons who committed the crime who, as of midweek, remained at large.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Most people in Cromwell are locking their doors these days – some of them for the very first time.
News spread quickly Sunday of an alleged double homicide just outside the city limits of the small rural community, made up primarily of close friends and relatives. The grief of losing two of their own was eclipsed only by the fear of the person or persons who committed the crime who, as of midweek, remained at large.
The body of Thomas Harold Holm, 53, was discovered by a friend who had come to check on him Sunday afternoon at Holm’s rural home at 5158 Krogh Road in Red Clover Township. After authorities responded to the scene, the body of Holm’s long-time girlfriend, Kim Brown Schmitz, 53, was also discovered in the house. According to Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake, both had been seen alive as recently as Saturday, when Schmitz worked at her job at B&B Market in Cloquet until 3 p.m. that afternoon.
The burned-out shell of Holm’s 1999 red, extended-cab Chevy Silverado pickup had been discovered around 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the 7700 block of Albert Road, near the towns of Brookston and Saginaw in St. Louis County. According to Steve Steblay of the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department, the chassis of the truck had been so severely burned that identification was not immediately available. He said what was left of the vehicle was towed into the shop and investigators were eventually able to piece together parts of the VIN number and other identifying factors that positively confirmed it belonged to Holm. Holm’s truck had a red topper with racing and hunting stickers in the windows and authorities are asking anyone who might have seen it before or after it was burned to contact either the St. Louis or Carlton County sheriff’s office.
In a press conference held Tuesday afternoon, Lake told reporters that no suspects were yet in custody in relation to what is being treated as a double homicide investigation, but she said detectives from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the Carlton County Sheriff’s Department, Cloquet Police, Thomson Township Police and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department are hard at work on it.
“We’re all diligently putting our efforts toward this case,” she stated. “We are following up on many leads currently, but we are asking for the public’s assistance. We know there is someone out there who has information they can give us that will lead us in the right direction to make an arrest in this case.”
To that end, she said a $10,000 reward is being offered for information related to the identity of the individual or individuals and resulting in an arrest in the double homicide. She asked the public to contact the Carlton County Sheriff’s office at 218-384-3236 with any information whatsoever related to this case.
“Don’t think that anything is too insignificant,” she said. “We will follow up on all leads and make that determination based on what we find.”
The BCA and its mobile crime lab have remained at the house on Krogh Road since authorities were first called in, processing the scene and any forensic evidence that may be found there. They were due to wrap up their preliminary work by late Tuesday, at which time an additional investigation will be conducted by local and state authorities, according to Carlton County Attorney Thomas Pertler.
“We want to make sure that we are very methodical with our investigation and that we’re not missing anything,” said Lake.
Steblay added the first few hours and days following a crime are the most crucial in gathering evidence.
Lake refused to speculate on the actual cause of death of Holm and Schmitz, stating that an exact determination is pending until final autopsy results are known. She said the autopsies were being conducted at the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office at the time of Tuesday’s press conference and results should be available before the end of the week.
In the meantime, authorities continued to work around the clock on the case, holding both morning and evening briefing sessions.
Lake said investigators are “fairly certain” there was more than one person involved in the homicides but at this time they are uncertain just how many or if they were acquainted with the victims ahead of time.
“Right now we do not have enough information to say for certain,” admitted Lake. “What I can tell you, from experience and from statistics in these types of cases, more often than not the victims did have some type of knowledge of the assailant(s) and there was some connection somehow. I am not saying that for certain in this case because we still don’t know.”
Lake said she could not recall any such violent death in the Cromwell area since joining the sheriff’s department in 1989. Perhaps that is why many who live in this peaceful community of 203 residents say they’re having trouble sleeping at night.
“There have been many questions from the community asking, ‘Are we safe? Should we be concerned?’” said Lake. “We don’t want to send people into a panic mode, but we do ask them to use general safety precautions…be vigilant, be alert and pay attention to what’s going on around them and report anything suspicious to us.”
Visitation for Holm is set for Monday, Jan. 17, from 11 a.m. until the 1 p.m. funeral service at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cromwell. The visitation for Schmitz will take place Saturday, Jan. 22, at Handevidt Funeral Home in Cloquet from 10 a.m. until the 11 a.m. service.