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Murder arrest made after missing NDSU researcher found dead

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West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. -- A murder investigation has led to the arrest of a man by Griggs County authorities after a researcher affiliated with North Dakota State University -- missing since New Year's Eve -- was found dead in a Cooperstown, N.D., home.

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According to a news release from Sheriff Robert Hook, Kurt Douglas Johnson, 54, not seen since Dec. 31, was reported missing Tuesday and later found dead.

A suspect has been arrested, Hook said, but he did not release the name Thursday because charges have not been filed in connection with Johnson's death.

"There is a murder investigation in progress," he said in the news release Thursday.

Griggs County State's Attorney Paul Murphy, of Carrington, N.D., said he expected to file charges today.

He, too, would not name the suspect, except to confirm the man is being held in Jamestown, N.D., on an unrelated probation violation from California.

An official at the Stutsman County jail in Jamestown said Daniel Evan Wacht, 30, was being held on a probation violation from California for Griggs County.

Johnson was a researcher and program director with the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at NDSU who grew up in Cooperstown and moved back there several years ago. He was an expert on keeping the state's highways in good shape.

KVLY-TV first reported that Johnson last was seen leaving the Oasis Bar in Cooperstown, being helped into a vehicle by Wacht on New Year's Eve.

An employee at the Oasis said Thursday night that the bar is not commenting on the case.

Cooperstown residents said Wacht had moved into town several months ago and worked at a local manufacturing plant.

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