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Cold Case Continues to Puzzle Investigators

July 29, 2019 10:53 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- It is a case that has puzzled investigators in Olmsted County for years. On June 4, 1989, a man was found shot to death in the Zumbro River near Rock Dell. Now it has been over 30 years since the murder and both former and current investigators are still hoping to catch whoever murdered Peter Kapitula even though the chances are slim.

"We're confident that we got close to the right people the key was we didn't have any real good direct evidence. Everything was based on the testimony of people that were telling the stories and they were all criminals and frankly, we couldn't make them credible enough to be able to trust their testimony in a court of law," said Former Olmsted County Sheriff Steve Borchardt.

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Sheriff Borchardt was a captain in the detective division on June 4, 1989. That's the day, a boy and his mother were out fishing in the South Fork of the Zumbro River, where they found a body lying in a foot of water and he had been shot to death.

"The victim is an adult male uh probably a young adult, rather large person he was clothed in jeans cotton shirt and wearing tennis shoes with no identification on him at this point we do not know who the victim is," said Former Sheriff Charles VonWald who was sheriff at the time of the murder.

Retired Detective Dave Rikhus who was a patrol deputy with the Olmsted county sheriff's office at the time was the first car on the scene that day. 

"It didn't look like he was uh killed at the scene based on the evidence that we saw," said retired detective Dave Rikhus.

Because of the limited technology at the time, authorities struggled to identify the man and where he was killed. 

"If it were to happen today even if you didn't have a DNA comparison the real-time transfer of data is so much better now than it was and so you can search databases nationwide for all different kinds of information," Borchardt said.

The victim was unknown to law enforcement and there were no local records of him. 

"When you can't identify the deceased or the victim in a homicide case for a couple of weeks and it's a person that doesn't have any natural ties to the community your starting in a bad place for your investigation. It took a long time and in that period, of course, a lot of evidence disappears and the perpetrators of the event were able to change their stories or get together and make up the same story,"

It took a few weeks for the sheriff’s office to identify the man. Officials released a picture he was Peter Kapitula originally from New Hampshire.
 
"Unfortunately the kinds of friends he had made since he had been in our area weren't really friends, they were all people that engaged in illegal trafficking of mood-altering substances, narcotics you name it and lived generally a criminal lifestyle in our community," Borchardt said.

Investigators later pieced together that his last known where about’s was at the Y motel in Kasson which has now been converted into apartment units. 

"The motive we came up with uh for the homicide was narcotics one of the last people a friend of his that we talked to that day there or that night there had worked on his truck and when we interviewed him peter was going to meet somebody to buy some cocaine and wanted this guy to come along and the guy kind of refused he didn't want to be involved and that was the last time anybody saw him that we're aware of," Rikhus said. "One of the people who was a person of interest already passed away uh the other ones are still in the area as far as we know uh we know from the scene that at least two people were there at the scene with the body."

As weeks turned into years both Borchardt and Rikhus were promoted. Borchardt was elected sheriff, Rikhus was promoted to detective. After reviewing the case again they sent it to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's Cold Case Unit since then evidence has been submitted for testing multiple times; most recently in 2013.

"The possibility is certainly there that somebody knows something even just a little bit that can help tip the scales a little bit more in our favor and we can close this out with some sort of resolution that possibility is there... do I think its likely no," said Captain Scott Behrns with the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office.

Captain Behrns says the last time any work was done on the case was around 2015 and it was unsuccessful.

"What we do with our cold cases we assign them to an investigator so that if something does come up they can take it,” Behrns said. “In this day and age for me to put a team on this is very difficult we are very busy as you can tell lately with current crime that we need to solve right away that are taking anything away from the cold cases but we need to work on what's going on here today."

Captain Behrns added that if new evidence came forward or if technology advanced in a way that would allow them to examine DNA further, they would consider resubmitting their evidence.

"It's one of those things that no investigator wants to have a case unopened or not solved when they retired so I know this has weighed heavy on some of the people you talked to but um they did a good job and they did what they needed to do at the time and unfortunately, people that are involved in this want to take it to their grave and are determined to do that and that's what they will do"

Even though they interviewed thousands of people of interest over the years, Borchardt still holds out hope that someone, somewhere, could have the change of heart needed to help crack the case. 

"I think there is always a potential as long as people are still alive that were around when it happened there's a chance that they could have changed and had a rebirth of spirit in their life and be interested in doing the right thing at this time," Borchardt said. 

If you any information about the case, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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