Anita Knutson was born to be a teacher.
When she enrolled as a freshman at Minot State University — about an hour from her tiny North Dakota Butte’s hometown, where her father served as mayor—in 2007, Anita was pursuing that calling, her sister Anna recalled in an interview with The Daily Beast.
Between two jobs to support herself and maintain a healthy social life, this “beautiful, charismatic and playful” 18-year-old did well in her first year of primary education. studying and looking forward to summer vacation.
“She loves going to school,” says the 30-year-old marketing executive, noting that her sister always “has a lot of friends around her.”
One advantage given the proximity to home is the ability for Anita – who was adopted with her two younger siblings – to see her close-knit family often.
“The place where my brother and I go to high school is about 30 minutes from Minot…. So we went several times a week,” said Anna.
That brief period of time proved invaluable in June 2007, when Anita didn’t answer her parents’ calls all weekend while they were in Bismarck for their son, Daniel’s baseball tournament. Noting that it’s “rarely unheard of” not to hear from her, Anna said, her mother asked her father to drive to Minot that Monday to check on the incoming sophomore .
Along with two maintenance workers who helped him into his daughter’s off-campus apartment, former Butte Mayor Gordon Knutson was confronted with a grisly scene: his teenage daughter was stabbed to death, face down on his own bed. A cloak covered her bloody body, and the pocket knife used to kill her was nearby.
The brazen murder of the daughter of the mayor of rural North Dakota sent shockwaves through the community, but the Minot Police Department has never arrested or even officially named a suspect during the 14-year investigation. Instead, according to Sheriff John Klug, police had to rely on someone to provide information on a high-tape case – and Anna Knutson believes contributed to her brother’s subsequent death. .
“The police department continues to investigate this case and follow up on leads,” Klug told The Daily Beast, adding that police believe Anita’s killer is still out there and they are determined to find answers.
For most of Anna Knutson’s early life, she remembers wanting to be like her older sister. While she and her brother, Daniel, are only a year apart in age, Anita is over three years old – an age difference that makes Anna admire all that her older sister has done.
“We got really close,” she told The Daily Beast. “When we were kids, we always had the right outfits, which was really fun. Every thing my sister does, I want to do.”
One thing Anna especially loves about Anita is her ability to be “who everyone wants to be.” That attitude makes it easy to imagine her sister as an elementary school teacher, she said.
The frequency with which she saw her siblings that year made it impossible for Anna to recall every detail of the last time she did so — about a week before she was murdered — besides a quick chat at The clothing store Anita works in is inside a local mall. .
That weekend in June, Anna said, she remembers having frequent conversations about how strangely Anita wasn’t answering her phone.
Sheriff Klug said that the last time anyone heard from Anita was that Saturday. Minot Police Investigator Dave Goodman told Minot Daily News in 2012, Anita was not available for her shift at a local hotel – where she worked her second job – that day. Denise Tobey, receptionist at Minot’s Fairfield Inn, told Bismarck Tribune in 2007, Anita has been working at the hotel for about a year, her job mainly consists of helping the housekeeper clean the rooms.
On Monday, June 4, 2007, Anita’s father made the hour-long trip from Butte to Minot — dropping Anna, then 15, at a friend’s house along the way. Moments later, Anna said, she received an ominous call from her father, telling her her brother would come pick her up and “don’t ask any questions, just go home”.
“I remember getting in the car and he was obviously crying,” Anna said. “It’s not something out of the ordinary for my brother and he won’t tell me anything. So I just started naming people. Like, ‘Is that mom, is that our aunt Karen, or is that Uncle Joe?’ “Is it Anita?”
“And then he started crying and looked at me and said, ‘She’s dead,’ Anna continued. “I just remember the whole ride, we sat in silence. It takes about 30 minutes by car to go home.”
Crime scene analysis later concluded that Anita had been dead for more than a day before her father burst into her locked apartment with the help of two maintenance workers. One of the workers, Klug pointed out, noticed that Anita’s bedroom window screen had been slashed.
Matt Murphy, a student at Minot State University who lives in an apartment across from Anita’s yard, told Bismarck Tribune by the time he noticed her bedroom window was broken Monday morning – and that glass was on the ground.
“I was passing by because I was biking to work, and I saw the window broken, and I didn’t think about it,” Murphy told the store.
Inside the apartment Anita shared with a roommate, the teenager’s father discovered a macabre scene. Police say Anita was stabbed at least twice in the chest with a pocket knife that was recovered at the scene. While there was no evidence of sexual abuse or defense wounds, Klug noted that Anita was found wearing a cape.
“So it’s just another consideration of how things could go,” added the sheriff, who was a lieutenant at the time.
More strangely, she realized that Anita’s car was still parked a few yards from her front door and her apartment appeared to be empty.
“It was just a difficult situation,” Lieutenant Jason Sundbakken told Minot Daily News in 2012. “This is one of those cases that hangs over your head. It’s frustrating.”
Local newspapers reported that Butte residents had rallied together to support Gordon and Sharon Knutson, including with the grocery business. High school students from their alma mater also got together to wear pink bracelets in honor of Anita.
“The whole community is doing whatever they can,” said Sandie Hartman, a resident Bismarck Tribune at the time about her grocery trips for the Knutsons. “This is what I can do. I used to work in a restaurant. You just give whatever you can.”
Anita’s death prompted Minot State University to increase security, including installing video cameras in campus parking lots and new lighting. President David Fuller told Local media reported in 2007 that the school was also considering an emergency alert system that could be sent to students’ cell phones and computers.
“For all of us at Minot State, we are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our students. We extend our deepest condolences to Anita’s family, “he said in a June 20, 2007 report to the school community.
Klug said that the Minot Police Department collected DNA samples from everyone close to Anita and interviewed them extensively in their efforts to solve the case.
Klug added: “We won’t release specific details about DNA – except we hope new advances in technology will bring us to the suspect.
Among those interviewed was Anita’s roommate, who told police she was out of town with her parents at the time of the murder. Klug confirmed that the roommate, who has not been publicly identified, has never been ruled out as a suspect – but also says that police are simply not ruling out anything in the open investigation.
Minot Police Investigator Dave Goodman told Minot Daily News in 2012, the case initially created a “large circle” of possible suspects — and over the years, police were able to shorten this list. Klug also noted to The Daily Beast that while a witness told police she saw a man run away from Anita’s apartment building around the same time she was killed, they were able to identify and do whether the individual has anything to do with the case.
While Klug insists that the investigation is ongoing and that all advice has “received attention,” Anna told The Daily Beast that police were not doing enough to solve the murder, a horror that she said she played a part in her brother’s death.
On April 9, 2013, Daniel Knutson died by suicide. Anna said their sister’s death was particularly heartbreaking for her brother and that the incident changed him and “caused a lot of pain.”
“He was never the same after she died. It was absolutely difficult for all of us, but… whoever killed my sister killed my brother.”
Anna said that although police still called and provided updates to the family, those conversations were “few and far away”. Now, she believes, it’s up to the public to help solve crime.
“If anyone knows anything, I’m just asking everyone to have a little bit of courage here and just speak up,” Anna said. “If you know anything at all, please say something. It doesn’t lose to me how heavy it is. We have lost two people in our family. We just ask for a little courage. “
If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Text Line about the crisis by texting TALK to 741741
https://www.thedailybeast.com/anita-knutsons-murder-in-north-dakota-is-still-unsolved?source=articles&via=rss Anita Knutson’s murder in North Dakota remains unsolved