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Law enforcement continues search as family holds Kara Monson memorial

Family and friends gathered Tuesday day morning outside the Granite Falls Lutheran Church following the Kara Monson funeral. Monson, 26, and Christopher Panitzke, 28, formerly of Redwood Falls, were found shot Sept. 2 in Monson's Granite Falls home.

GRANITE FALLS – Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies gathered Tuesday morning at the Yellow Medicine County Sheriff’s Office in Granite Falls to launch another aggressive search of Minnesota River bottom lands in hopes of bringing closure to the double homicide that has shocked this community.

Across the street from the Sheriff’s Office, an estimated 600 people gathered at the Granite Falls Lutheran Church to celebrate the life of Kara Monson, 26, who was fatally shot in her Granite Falls home in the early morning hours of Sept. 2. Her boyfriend, Chris Panitzke, 28, of Redwood Falls, died Sunday at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis of gunshot injuries he suffered at Monson’s home in Granite Falls.

“Life is not supposed to be like this with communities living in fear of crime, violence and senseless murders,’’ said the Rev. Leslie Neist as she began her sermon. “It’s not supposed to be like this: a young woman who is sweet and beautiful and intelligent suddenly having her life taken away just as she was getting her life going. It is not supposed to happen.’’

As she spoke, law enforcement officers in squad cars circled the church outside. A smattering of officers in plainclothes joined the mourners in the church pews. Kara Monson’s family members, including her daughter Poppy, as well as friends filled the entire first floor of the church, while another 150 people viewed the service on a screen in the church basement.

“I looked up to her as a woman, as a friend, and most importantly as a mother,’’ said Michelle Preuss, who was among those who addressed those who came to remember Monson, whose death came one day before her 27th birthday.

Friends and family members described Monson as a loving mother and someone who always saw the best in others. They encouraged everyone to celebrate her life and not allow the tragedy of her death to overcome them. “I challenge everyone here to live and love one another as Kara would,’’ said Tim Sheely, her brother-in-law.

No word was available Tuesday afternoon as to the progress of the search by law enforcement.

They are seeking Andrew Joseph Dikken, 28, of Granite Falls and formerly of Renville. He had a previous relationship with Kara Monson. He was seen on videotape at a Granite Falls convenience store shortly after Panitzke made a 911 call reporting the shooting. Dikken’s vehicle was discovered Wednesday in a gravel pit off a rural road south of Sacred Heart.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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