Search for man wanted in Granite Falls, Minn., double homicide continues as hundreds remember victim
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 bottomlands 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 mourners joined 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 from the gunshot injuries he suffered in the shooting at Monson's home.
"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 at the memorial service. "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 5-year-old 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. "There was something so very special about being in Kara's presence," said Amber Nicole Anderson, a friend and cousin. "She was always so warm and genuine."
"Kara was beautiful in her own way, but what made her so special was her ability to love everyone for their inner beauty," said Tim Sheely, her brother-in-law.
He encouraged everyone to celebrate her life and not allow the tragedy of her death to overcome them with hate. "I challenge everyone here to live and love one another as Kara would."
"Kara was a hopeful person, someone who dreamed of a bright, hopeful tomorrow for her and for Poppy," said the Rev. Neist. She urged everyone to remember Kara not as the face appearing in so many newspapers and newscasts as a victim, but as "a loving mother and an amazing friend and a beautiful sister, daughter, cousin, and niece; (as a) child of God who brought hope into the world."
Hope and love and belief in eternal life would overcome the tragedy, the minister assured those who had joined. "Rejoice that she is finally home with the God who never left her."
Law enforcement was not able to report any developments in the search as of Tuesday afternoon.
They are seeking Andrew Joseph Dikken, 28, of Granite Falls and formerly of Renville, in the double homicide. He had a previous relationship with Kara Monson. He was recorded on a surveillance camera 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.
The public has been asked to call authorities if they spot Dikken but warned not to approach him.