Time, technology and persistent police work have led to a break and arrest in the 1974 homicide of Mabel "Mae" Agnes Boyer Herman.
A South Dakota man — a former Willmar native — named Algene Leeland Vossen, 79, was arrested in Sioux Falls, S.D., and is being held in the Minnehaha County jail pending extradition to Minnesota.
The arrest came 46 years, 5 months and 26 days after the life of Herman, 73, was tragically taken through multiple stabbings.
The death of an elderly woman in Willmar sent shockwaves through the community and the surrounding region. It was a case seared into the memory of many in the cold January week, that is remembered.
We are not commenting on Vossen's innocence or guilt at this time. He still has to be extradited out of South Dakota and he has not waived extradition. Once he is returned to Minnesota, the state's legal process will take over and he will face a trial to determine an outcome.
Today, we want to commend the Willmar Police Department and its officers, past and present, who did not give up on this case.
Immediately following the discovery of Herman's body, there was an urgency within the department to catch the murderer and ease safety concerns within the community.
The suspect was first interviewed in mid-February 1974, after being stopped for a window peeping incident. But the investigation hit a brick wall by April 1974, according to former Willmar Police Chief Lyle Goeddertz. No clear suspects or information was found that would lead to an arrest at the time or over the passing decades.
In June, current Police Chief Jim Felt organized a review team to look at multiple cold cases, including the Herman homicide. Newer investigative and evidence analysis techniques were used to evaluate old evidence in the case. The team successfully identified evidence that could be used for current DNA analysis.
Willmar law enforcement, through a warrant and cooperation with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the South Dakota Division of Investigation, obtained a DNA sample from the suspect. Additional DNA tested was confirmed as a match of the suspect's DNA with evidence in the 1974 homicide.
Now it's up to the Minnesota court system, lawyers and a jury to make a legal determination in this case.
Local and state law enforcement personnel deserve gratitude for never forgetting the Herman homicide for the past 46-plus years. They utilized new techniques and technology to review and identify evidence that eventually led to an arrest in the case.
In today's politically charged environment, it is not an easy year to be in law enforcement at any level. Much of the negative public opinion, disrespect and hatred express toward police, in general, is disheartening to any law enforcement individual, here and across the state.
However, who do we call when trouble arrives?
Local law enforcement personnel are the first people called when there is a crime or trouble in our home or neighborhood, just like a governor calls the National Guard when a natural disaster occurs or the president calls the military when the country faces a crisis.
The vast majority of law enforcement, just like most military personnel, join their profession "to protect and to serve" the people. That's their job and why they joined up.
Yes, there are bad apples in every profession and law enforcement and the military are no exceptions. The George Floyd murder case in Minneapolis is a prime example of a tragic wrong. That case is now in the criminal and civil court system. Certainly, such individuals should be held accountable.
Today is the time to recognize the Willmar Police Department and related state investigation agencies whose investigative work led to the identification and arrest of a suspect in the 1974 Herman murder case.
Thank you, law enforcement.
This editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune Editorial Board, consisting of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.