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Willmar police arrest suspect in 1974 cold case homicide, extradition pending from South Dakota

The 1974 killing of Mabel "Mae" Agnes Boyer Herman went unsolved for decades until the Willmar Police Department set up a cold case team that used newer investigative and analysis techniques to eventually arrest Algene Leeland Vossen, 79, in the homicide.

012874.n.wct.HermanMurder.jpg
Mabel (Mae) Agnes Boyer Herman's body is removed from her home at 804 West Sixth Street by Willmar police officers Sanford Larson and Roger Klinghagen following her murder on Jan. 27, 1974. Mike Gunter / Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — Willmar Police Department officers arrested Algene Leeland Vossen, 79, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in the 1974 homicide of Mabel "Mae" Agnes Boyer Herman, according to Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt.

Vossen is currently being held in the Minnehaha County jail in South Dakota pending extradition to Minnesota.

VOSSEN, ALGENE LEELAND
Algene Leeland Vossen Photo via Minnehaha County (S.D.) Jail

According to Felt, the Willmar Police Department worked with multiple agencies in Minnesota and South Dakota to determine that Vossen was a suspect and to apprehend him after a cold case unit was established in June.

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Herman, age 73, had been found dead with what appeared to be multiple stab wounds in January 1974 after family went to her home to check on her when no one answered the phone.

Herman was reportedly stabbed in the neck and chest more than 20 times, according to a Jan. 28, 1974, West Central Tribune story. It was believed she had been dead for several hours before her body was discovered by her sister Ann Hulsether at about 8 p..m. Sunday, Jan. 27, 1974, on her living room floor at 804 West Sixth Street. Hulsether had gone to investigate after Herman failed to answer her telephone.

Willmar police initially had no apparent motive for the homicide, and they ruled out the possibility of robbery as a motive, according to a Jan. 29, 1974, Tribune story.

Herman was the widow of H.A. Herman, a longtime Willmar resident. Her funeral service was held Jan. 29, 1974, at Vinje Lutheran Church in Willmar. A committal service was held on Jan. 30, 1974, at Grace Lutheran Church in Ada, and she was buried in the Ada Cemetery.

The decades-long homicide investigation that followed by the Willmar Police Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension had not turned up any clear suspects or information that would lead to an arrest, according to Felt.

Evidence evaluation at the time was also inconclusive.

In June 2020, the Willmar Police Department set up a temporary cold case review team that was tasked with reviewing and evaluation of multiple unsolved crimes, including the Herman homicide.

Over a two-week period, the team found that Vossen, a Kandiyohi County native who grew up in Willmar, had been listed as a suspect, though evidence against him was inconclusive.

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However, Vossen once again emerged as a significant suspect.

Using newer investigative and evidence analysis techniques, the team identified evidence that could be used for DNA analysis.

That evidence was sent to the Minnesota BCA Crime Lab and an apparent suspect was discovered by the analysis, but there were no matches to various suspects in the case.

Vossen's DNA was not in the database or evidence for comparison.

According to Felt, the department learned that Vossen was residing in Sioux Falls and with the assistance of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, Vossen's DNA was obtained by a search warrant and sent to the Minnesota BCA Crime Lab for comparison.

On July 17, the crime lab indicated the DNA collected from the evidence in the 1974 homicide matched Vossen's.

On July 23, Willmar Police Department detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Vossen for second-degree murder and he was arrested at his home in Sioux Falls by members of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the Sioux Falls Police Department and Willmar officers.


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VOSSEN, ALGENE LEELAND
Algene Leeland Vossen Photo via Minnehaha County (S.D.) Jail

Mark Wasson has been a public safety reporter with Post Bulletin since May 2022. Previously, he worked as a general assignment reporter in the southwest metro and as a public safety reporter in Willmar, Minn. Readers can reach Mark at mwasson@postbulletin.com.
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