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Just where was Andrew Dikken?

Squad cars from regional law enforcement agencies were parked on rural roads south of Sacred Heart on Sept. 4 as a State Patrol helicopter and armed officers riding all-terrain vehicles searched the Minnesota River Valley in search of Andrew Dikken. The suspect in a double shooting Sept. 2 in Granite Falls, Dikken is now in custody. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

GRANITE FALLS – Authorities are still waiting to learn where Andrew Dikken, 28, has been since he became the focus of an extensive manhunt in the Sept. 2 double homicide in Granite Falls.

Extensive searches that had been conducted in the area where his vehicle had been found following the shootings had failed to turn up any clues as to his whereabouts, according to Yellow Medicine County Sheriff Bill Flaten.

Dikken has not been talking to authorities since being taken into custody Tuesday, and has given no indication of where he has been for the 15 days since, according to the sheriff.

Dikken, of Granite Falls and formerly of Renville, is in the Yellow Medicine County Jail in Granite Falls. He is set to appear in court today on two counts of second-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Kara Monson, 26, and Christopher Panitzke, 28.

Dikken showed up at the home of his parents in the city of Renville around 3 p.m. Tuesday. They immediately turned him in to the Renville County Sheriff’s Office in Olivia. Dikken’s family had been cooperating with authorities searching for him, according to the sheriff and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The sheriff said that Dikken’s apprehension has brought a sense of relief to the many law officers who had been searching for him, and the communities that had been in fear. He was believed armed and dangerous, and law officers had worked long, hard hours in their search.

The Yellow Medicine County Sheriff’s office, Granite Falls Police Department, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation have been leading an extensive investigation since the shooting.

Searches focused on an area along the Minnesota River near where the suspect’s vehicle had been located two days after the shooting. It was in a gravel pit off of Redwood County Road 7, about five miles north of Belview.

It’s a heavily wooded area along the Minnesota River where Renville and Redwood counties meet. The search there was made difficult by thickets of cedar trees so tightly packed that officers could not walk directly through some areas. There are abandoned rock quarries, active quarries, and a mix of farm and hunting lands in the river bottom area.

Sheriff Flaten said ground, water and air searches were conducted in the large area. Ron and Evan Fagen, Fagen Engineering, piloted a small plane to allow officers to search the area by air. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, State Patrol, and officers with area drug task forces, police and county sheriff’s offices from throughout the region all joined in the ongoing searches, said the sheriff. At times, officers walked nearly side by side to make their way through the thick brush. Dogs were also used in hopes of picking up a trail. Heat imaging cameras and other technology were also employed, without success.

Officers conducted the search with the intent of taking the suspect into custody, but also kept in mind the possibility that he could have committed suicide. The searches turned up not so much as a thread of evidence that Dikken was in the area.

Flaten said authorities suspect that he may have left the vehicle at the site and made his way on foot to another area based on the fact that no sign of him could be found in the search area. It is about a 12-mile hike to Renville, where he turned up at his parents’ home, a distance that could easily have been covered on foot during the two-week period, the sheriff pointed out.

At this point, authorities have seen no evidence indicating that Dikken had been helped by an accomplice, although that cannot be ruled out, he noted.    

Along with the extensive searches in the area, law enforcement also issued bulletins and posted a nationwide alert for him. Dikken had been known to be living previously in Alaska, and there were rumors he had gone to California. Local authorities alerted their counterparts in those two states to be especially watchful.

Officers also followed up on countless tips from the public, and interviewed a wide range of people who might have some helpful information, according to Flaten. As is always the case in searches for fugitives, law enforcement also monitors the suspect’s cell phone, bank and other accounts for any signs of activity.

While the searches did not lead directly to Dikken’s apprehension, the sheriff said he can’t help but believe that the effort and public attention helped in some way to lead the suspect to end his flight.

Officers involved in the search are well-aware of the suffering the two victims’ families are experiencing, and felt some of the same relief as did the families in knowing he was in custody. “We put so much of ourselves into it,” Flaten said.

Tom Cherveny

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

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