Arrest made in 2000 killing of Cloquet womanA convicted sex offender from Cloquet has been arrested for a murder 12 years ago considered one of the most high-profile cold cases in the Northland, the St. Louis County Sheriff’s office said late Friday night.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
A convicted sex offender from Cloquet has been arrested for a murder 12 years ago considered one of the most high-profile cold cases in the Northland, the St. Louis County Sheriff’s office said late Friday night.
Joseph John Couture was arrested in the Sept. 3, 2000, stabbing death of Trina Langenbrunner of Cloquet. Her body was discovered off a rural road in southern St. Louis County. The 33-year-old was the mother of three.
Couture, 41, is a Level 3 sex offender and is being held in St. Louis County Jail on charges of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal sexual conduct, authorities said.
Couture was arrested in 1993 on felony burglary charges and faced various misdemeanor charges before a conviction for second-degree sexual conduct in 2006. He had been charged with 11 counts of first-degree sexual conduct with a person younger than 13 before pleading to the final charge.
The sheriff’s office provided no other information on Friday afternoon’s arrest.
Steve Hagenah, a retired senior special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in Bemidji, worked for years on the case and was thrilled to hear about an arrest Friday night.
“I know some people who busted their chops on that case,” he said. “It just goes to show that you never give up.”
He said that while many of the people who worked on the case early on are now retired, investigators wear a cold case “like an albatross around your neck,” he said.
“You never stop thinking about it.”
In a 2005 interview, Hagenah talked about how difficult cold cases can be to close.
“Based on circumstances, I think it’s highly likely it was a stranger or somebody who interacted with Trina just in that moment,” Hagenah said at the time. “That makes it difficult. We spent thousands of man-hours over there working that. It has the air of solvability to it, but we’re missing some key elements: witnesses or biological evidence that would be useful to us.”
There was a $100,000 reward offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Langenbrunner’s killer.
Langenbrunner’s family asked for privacy Friday night after receiving news of the arrest.
Authorities said Langenbrunner was hitchhiking to Grand Rapids to see her estranged husband the night of her death. Sex or robbery was believed to be the killer’s initial motivation.