Authorities search along Minnesota River after finding pickup of man sought in homicide case
By Carolyn Lange and Gretchen Schlosser
SACRED HEART — Squad cars from multiple law enforcement agencies were parked Wednesday afternoon on a narrow scenic byway south of Sacred Heart as armed officers wearing bulletproof vests rode all-terrain vehicles through the tall grass and dense woods along the rolling Minnesota River valley.
Overhead a State Patrol helicopter swept back and forth.
They were searching for Andrew Joseph Dikken, 28, from Granite Falls.
Dikken, who is formerly from Renville and has ties in the community, is being sought as a "person of interest" in the murder of Kara Ann Monson, 26, who was killed Monday in her Granite Falls home.
According to the Department of Public Safety, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner said Monson died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The shooting at the home also left Christopher Panitzke, 28, of Redwood Falls, with multiple gunshot wounds.
According to posts on a Caring Bridge website, Panitzke was shot in the left foot, arm and the chest and has had surgery to repair wounds to his stomach and to graft a vein into his arm to repair damage to the limb.
He was first taken by ambulance to Granite Falls Hospital and then was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis for treatment.
His condition was not available Wednesday.
Monson's 5-year-old daughter was not at the home Monday, and was reportedly staying with her father for the holiday weekend.
The funeral for Monson has been set for Tuesday at Granite Falls Lutheran Church.
Authorities have been searching for Dikken since the shooting, which was reported around 3:30 a.m. Monday in the 1100 block of Prentice Street in Granite Falls. The house in a residential neighborhood along the Minnesota River was taped off as a crime scene for more than a day.
Early in the day Wednesday authorities discovered a vehicle that is believed to belong to Dikken in a gravel pit down a dirt road off Redwood County Road 7, which is about a quarter-mile south of the Renville County line, just over the bridge that crosses the Minnesota River.
In a statement, the Department of Public Safety said that Dikken's 1996 brown GMC Sierra pickup — which had been the subject of numerous alerts from law enforcement seeking the public's help finding Dikken — had been located.
Finding the vehicle was apparently the first break in the search, which on Wednesday involved law enforcement officers from Renville County, Redwood County, Yellow Medicine County, the State Patrol, state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and state Department of Natural Resources.
Officers were seen climbing down the bank for a brief search by the bridge on the Minnesota River before heading down a scenic byway route to the Joseph Brown Memorial Wayside Rest, where they were stationed for a period of time while searching that part of the river valley.
Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable said at that time the search resulted in no new leads.
That was confirmed later Wednesday in a message from Yellow Medicine County Sheriff Bill Flaten.
A State Patrol officer was stationed in a squad car on the county highway and refused to let motorists travel down the gravel road where Dikken's vehicle was reportedly found.
Several residents in Sacred Heart said they had seen a brown vehicle being towed from the area Wednesday morning.
Those residents also said they had been hearing numerous rumors about Dikken but were reluctant to speculate. News of the murder in Granite Falls and his subsequent disappearance was causing obvious emotional pain for many.
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Safety reiterated their warning that Dikken may be armed and dangerous and that he should not be approached.
He is described as 5 feet, 11 inches tall, weighing 160 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information about Dikken's location is asked to contact the Granite Falls Police Department, the Yellow Medicine County Sheriff's Office, or call 911.