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Redwood Falls community pays tribute to homicide victim Chris Panitzke

Mourners gather Saturday outside St. John Lutheran Church in Redwood Falls prior to the funeral for Chris Panitzke, a victim of the double homicide Sept. 2 at a Granite Falls home. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

REDWOOD FALLS – A second rural community shocked by the shooting deaths of two young adults has joined to mourn one of the victims.

Chris Panitzke, 28, was remembered Saturday at a service here as a “kind hearted, loving person” who made everyone smile.

Mourners filled St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church to eulogize Panitzke and support his family.

In a letter to those who gathered, Panitzke’s sister, Megan, called her brother her best friend. She said she called on his strength to help the family through the death of their brother, Tyler, who died in September of 2008 at age 17.

The Rev. Jonathan Kruschel, St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, described Panitzke’s death as “yet another of life’s tragedies’’ in his sermon.  “For death has snatched the life of a young man still in the prime of his life, leaving family members, leaving relatives, leaving friends shocked, stumped, and grief stricken.’’

Panitzke, who leaves behind a young daughter, Ava Ochs-Panitzke, his parents and three siblings, died Sept. 8 at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he had been airlifted after being shot Sept. 2 at the Granite Falls home of Kara Monson, 26. Monson died at the scene. Her funeral service was held Sept. 10 in Granite Falls.

Monson’s parents and immediate family members were among those who joined the mourners in Redwood Falls.

Panitzke’s family members had maintained a vigil at HCMC, where he underwent medical treatment for three gunshot wounds. He managed to make the 911 call that summoned authorities to Monson’s home at the time of the shooting, sometime after 3 a.m. Sept. 2.

Law enforcement agencies continue to search for Andrew Dikken, 28, of Granite Falls and formerly of Renville, as a suspect in the double homicide. He was initially listed as a person of interest in the case, but authorities this week issued a warrant for his arrest.

His vehicle was found in a gravel pit near the Minnesota River south of Sacred Heart on Sept. 4.

Authorities say Dikken may be armed and dangerous. They have also appealed to area hunters to report any suspicious activity..

Crime Stoppers of Minnesota has offered a reward up to $1,000 for information leading to Dikken’s arrest. The Monson family has been distributing a wanted poster with photos of Dikken and urging people to contact law enforcement.

For more on this story please see Monday's edition of the West Central Tribune.
Tom Cherveny

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

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