The Hunt Goes On
Waseca lake bottom
searched in rare display that investigation into Larson
By Robb Murray -
Free Press Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 25, 1999
WASECA - The search
hasn't died down. Nor has the determination to find the
That's why even though
it's been four months since Cally Jo Larson was found
stabbed to death and hanging in her home and no one has
been arrested, authorities acting on a tip last week
searched the bottom of Waseca's Loon Lake.
Police won't say what
they were looking for or whether they found anything,
but they said the tip was very specific in telling
authorities where to search and what they might find.
The search area was a
few blocks down the road from Larson's house, said
Waseca Police Chief Jim Staloch. A dive team from the Le
Sueur County Sheriff's Department spent all day Aug. 17
searching a 150-square-foot area.
"I think it showed the
community that we're still investigating and we're still
working on it," Staloch said. "We still have two [Bureau
of Criminal Apprehension] agents full time and two of my
staff still dedicated to this investigation."
Larson, 12, was found
dead in her home April 20. Her 17-year-old sister found
the body. Cally was killed by a stab wound to the chest
and was hanging by her neck. Her body was partially nude
when it was found and she had been sexually assaulted.
Police said her attacker probably broke into the home
before Larson returned from school.
During the first few
weeks of the investigation, the Waseca Municipal
Building was inundated with law enforcement officers
from around the state arriving to aid the investigation,
and with media arriving to cover it. Police followed up
on more than 3,000 leads and interviewed more than 1,000
Eventually, as weeks
went on without an arrest, activity in Waseca died down.
But Staloch said the investigation has maintained
A few months ago a man
named Donald Blom was arrested on kid-napping charges in
connection with the abduction of Moose Lake con-venience
store clerk Katie Poirer. When it was learned a week
later that Blom had been in Waseca around the time
Larson was killed, Waseca investigators quickly zeroed
in on Blom as a suspect.
But other than the
fact that Blom made several trips to Waseca with his
wife to visit his wife's relatives, Staloch said there
is no physical evidence to link Blom to the killing.
Blom remains, however,
among a small pool of individuals investigators have not
been able to exclude as suspects.
And Staloch said
authorities still haven't located several vehicles seen
near Larson's home on the day of killing, including a
black pickup truck, nor have they found the truck's
driver, a man depicted in a composite sketch released
three weeks after the murder.
Two weeks ago,
investigators asked Mankato police to follow up on
several leads. The investigation was also featured
recently in a regional intelligence bulletin circulated
among law enforcement agencies. And whenever an officer,
conducts a traffic stop, the potential always exists
that the driver is Larson's killer.
"If our patrol
officers make a stop and find a pervert, we check him
out," Staloch said, adding that sev-eral leads have
developed over the past few months simply from officers
or secretaries remembering individuals with sordid pasts.
But last week's water
search was the first time in months that signs of the
investigation were publicly visible. Although it wasn't
his intention, Staloch said he's glad people were able
to see that his investigators continue to hunt down
Cally Jo's killer.
He also hopes the
exposure can jar the memory of someone who may have seen
something near Cally Jo's house April 20.
"What we've found out
during the course of this investigation is that people
may have seen something, but because they believe it's
not relevant, they don't say anything," Staloch said. "We
want people to know even at this late date that if
they've seen something, even if they don't think its
unusual, it is relevant.
"We're going to be
working on this as long as it takes and we believe
there's people out there who have seen something and can
provide us with direction and insight."
Murder That Changed
Residents want to move
on, but many are still afraid to be home alone
By Robb Murray -
Free Press Staff Writer
September 3, 1999
WASECA - Ask anyone
who lives there about life in Waseca and they'll tell
you that even though things are slowly getting back to
normal, nothing will be the same in their small town
until Cally Jo Larson's killer is caught.
That includes the
heightened sense of optimism that used to accompany the
first days of a new school year.
"From some standpoints,
it was a pretty normal beginning," said Waseca Junior
High Principal William Allaire on Wednesday, the first
day of classes at Cally Jo's school. "But it definitely
was different. There's still worry, and a mild
When Waseca students
left their classrooms for the summer in June, they began
their three-month vacation facing this reality: The man
who broke into 12-year-old Cally Jo's home, raped her,
plunged a knife into her chest and left her hanging by a
rope was still at large and possibly living among them.
And nothing has happened in the investigation to make
them think he's going to be caught any time soon.
That reality made for
a summer where few kids walked alone, some sought
counseling, and community members looked for ways to
ease the fears of their children.
"What we're hearing is
the kids are afraid to baby-sit, afraid to sleep in
their own rooms, and they're afraid to come home after
school," said Ron Koble, the Waseca Police Department's
liaison to the school district. "I haven't seen that the
fear has subsided. The kids are aware that this person
is still out there."
With the onset of
school comes the onset of a concept that was worrisome
enough without the fact that a child had been killed:
students going home to empty houses.
"During summer, it's
easier for parents to send a kid over to a neighbor's or
find something else for them to do," Koble said. "With
what happened to Cally, it's going to renew fears that
she went home to an empty house too."
Cally Jo was found
dead in her home April 20. Her 17-year-old sister found
her body. Police said the home showed signs of forced
entry and noted several items had been stolen, including
some coins. No other details of the crime have been
Susan Shaffer, a
Mankato psychologist, has seen some of the fears
Shaffer spent several
hours this summer counseling Waseca students, some of
whom were friends with Cally Jo. She says many of them
believe that what happened to Cally Jo can happen to
"We have a whole group
of kids who have not slept in their own beds since Cally
Jo was killed," Shaffer said. "Some are double, triple
and quadruple checking the locks on their houses, some
won't let their siblings out of their sight, some kids
are panicking when they don't know where their mom or
Those fears are to be
Said Shaffer, "These
are typical reactions to an extraordinarily horrifying
Shaffer said the
reactions are textbook examples of post-traumatic stress
disorder. But she's also seeing some reactions that
point to more serious problems.
Some have reported
actually seeing Cally Jo, including one child who asked
his mother to move away from a mirror so Cally Jo could
use it brush her hair. Others say they are waiting for
Cally Jo to reveal the killer's identity during a dream,
and some express remorse that it wasn't they who were
killed instead of Cally Jo.
"That's high risk,"
Shaffer said, "and it needs to be addressed."
In addition to
professional help, the community has responded with ways
to show support.
During the week of
Sept. 13-17, a group called Join Hands Waseca will
conduct an event called Stand Out for Safety. More than
100 women wearing pink hats are expected to come out of
their homes and stand at bus stops when buses drop
The gesture aims to be
symbolic in that Cally Jo's final living moments were
spent walking a block and a half from her bus stop to
her home. It also aims to be practical in that the group
recognizes children's fears.
"Some people are
saying, 'Let's move on, let's get over it.' But there
are some kids who are very fearful and don't want to go
home alone after school," said Barb Penny, organizer of
Join Hands Waseca. "It's hard to assure kids when, in
fact, that's what happened to Cally Jo. She went home
and someone was inside it."
School officials knew
there still would be some students who hadn't gotten
over the emotional issues brought on by Cally Jo's death.
For that reason,
Allaire announced at an assembly that students who need
a counselor for any reason can see one, and they
shouldn't feel afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.
While it's too early
to tell if students will take him up on his offer,
Allaire believes students still think about what
happened to Cally Jo, and the fears so obvious in the
school hallways last spring still exist.
"There's still someone
among us who has taken the life of one of our kids,"
investigation, meanwhile, continues, but with a fraction
of the manpower that characterized its first two months.
Two agents from the
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension still are on
the case, but their presence is no longer full time.
Most of the work now is being done by two Waseca police
Waseca Police Chief
Jim Staloch said the department has addressed the fact
that the investigation cannot continue forever. The
department has established a plan to pull resources when
tips stop coming in and leads dry up.
Staloch said he
thought a month ago that by now they'd have implemented
that plan. But as long as there are leads to follow,
he'll continue to dedicate resources to finding the
He also said his
department has publicly offered to help residents set up
neighborhood watch groups. Given the circumstances
around Cally Jo's death, Staloch said a neighborhood
watch group could have made the difference.
"I'm a little
surprised that people haven't gone after those," Staloch
said. "We're going to promote them and market them more
and see what happens."
"I was at an event
where [Cally Jo's aunt] from Minneapolis spoke and her
best advice was to be a snoopy neighbor," Penny said. "Watch
your neighbor's routines, watch what car they drive,
delight in snoopy neighbors."
For parents of
students afraid to go home after school, police say
there is no shortage of school or community activities.
Koble said parents
often turn to institutions to take the leadership role
in getting kids involved. But institutions can only do
so much. It is up to parents to take an active role in
their children's after-school lives.
"That's something that
needs some work," Koble said. "The number of programs
are immense. If you really try, you'll find something."
Jury To Convene In
No one has been
arrested in the death of the 12-year-old Wasecan
By Robb Murray -
Free Press Staff Writer
Tusday, June 6, 2000
WASECA - A grand jury
will convene June 27 in Waseca County to hear evidence
in the Cally Jo Larson homicide case, authorities
Although no one has
been arrested in the 12-year-old's death, the prime
suspect in the case is already behind bars.
Lorenzo Sanchez, 28,
was convicted last month for a string of house
burglaries and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Even though investigators won't officially confirm
Sanchez' status as the prime suspect, they've said
unofficially for several months that he has been the
focus of their investigation.
In a statement issued
Monday, authorities said: "Individuals are often not
charged or arrested before a grand jury convenes if a
suspect or suspects are already incarcerated."
Cally Jo was found
dead in her home April 20, 1999 , an hour and a half
after she was dropped off by her school bus. The Waseca
City Hall building turned into a hub of activity in the
weeks following as dozens of law enforcement officials
from around the state converged on Waseca to help the
Thousands of leads
were followed and hundreds of people were interviewed,
but the case didn't get a break until Feb. 18 when
Waseca police officer Kris Markeson saw Sanchez walking
around a residential area that had been hit hard by
burglaries. He arrested Sanzhez after finding him with a
long screwdriver, which police consider a burglary tool.
How he became a
suspect is unclear, but officials said property found at
his Waseca home links him to the killing. One official
said a compact disc case found at his home may have been
Cally Jo's. Other reports say the collectible coins
reported missing from the Larson home after the killing
were found in Sanchez' home. Neither report has been
In the weeks following
Sanchez' arrest, it appeared something else was going on
other than a burglary investigation. His bail, $160,000,
was huge for a burglar. He was jailed in Rochester
instead of Waseca because Rochester 's jail is more
secure. And authorities, after they'd filed charges and
linked him to more than a dozen burglaries, refused to
release his jail booking photograph, saying that "doing
so would hinder the investigation."
Also, in March, his
attorney declined to comment on whether he was being
investigated for any other crimes in Waseca County . And
Sanchez is now in the Oak Park Heights prison, the most
secure prison in the state. He has a history of drug and
property crimes in Texas , but has no history of violent
What happens next in
the case is determined by the 23 men and women of Waseca
County who will sit on the grand jury. They'll hear all
the evidence presented by prosecutors and decide if it's
enough to proceed with prosecution.
The grand jury can
indict someone for the killing on first- or second-degree
murder, but given the facts of this case - and the rare
instances in which grand juries are convened - this
grand jury most likely will be asked to return a first-degree
In Minnesota ,
prosecutors aren't allowed to simply charge someone with
first-degree murder. Only a grand jury indictment can do
that. Also, Cally Jo was found sexually assaulted. If
someone commits a murder in the process of a sexual
assault, prosecutors can pursue a first-degree murder
Once it's heard the
evidence, the grand jury has as long as it needs to
reach a decision. The results of that decision, which
probably would come within a few days of hearing the
evidence, wouldn't be unveiled until the initial court
appearance of the person indicted.
Upon the request of
Waseca County Attorney Larry Collins, this case will be
prosecuted by the Minnesota Attorney General's Office.
In complex cases such
as this where DNA will be the key evidence, smaller
counties routinely ask for state assistance because the
attorney general's prosecutors have more experience
dealing with it. They also have more experience dealing
with high-profile cases.
During the past few
years, several local cases have been prosecuted by the
Attorney General's Office, including the case of Thomas
Rhodes, the Mankato man who was convicted of killing his
wife on a family vacation in Spicer, and the case of
Eddy Flores, who was convicted of murdering a man in
Windom. Both cases involved complex DNA evidence.
November 11, 2000
WASECA - An old issue
will dominate Lorenzo Sanchez' new case in court this
week as the man indicted for the murder of 12-year-old
Cally Jo Larson makes his first important court
appearance in Waseca.
The Waseca County
Courthouse is booked all week for a hearing to litigate
pre-trial issues. The most contentious: Sanchez' arrest.
It will be the second time his attorneys will challenge
an arrest they say was unconstitutional and initiated by
nothing more than a police officer's hunch.
also have requested the trial be moved out of Waseca
County because of pre-trial publicity, a move
prosecutors say they won't contest. Prosecutors
acknowledge the case has generated more media coverage
than any in recent memory in southern Minnesota.
Attorneys also will
argue over whether complex DNA evidence can be admitted
and whether medical records subpoenaed from a Texas
prison can be released to prosecutors.
They hope Texas prison
doctors, who reportedly examine prisoners upon
incarceration, noted the existence of small beads
Sanchez had implanted under the skin on his penis. If
they did, the records will establish Sanchez had the
implants before the murder. The medical examiner who
performed Cally Jo's autopsy said damage done during the
rape was worse than normal, and that such implants could
have been the difference.
Cally Jo was found
dead in her home April 20, 1999 , less than two hours
after she walked home from her school bus. She had been
stabbed in the chest, sexually assaulted and left
hanging by her neck. A 14-month investigation resulted
in Sanchez' indictment in July.
The key issue is the
arrest. And if Sanchez' attorneys can convince Judge
Lawrence Collins the arrest was illegal, the case
against Sanchez would be effectively over because the
arrest preceded a series of events that make up the bulk
of the case against him.
Waseca police officer
Kris Markeson was on patrol in a Waseca neighborhood
Feb. 19, 2000 . He was told to look for suspicious
activity in an area hit hard by burglaries.
When he saw Sanchez
walking down the street, he approached him. Markeson
asked him a few questions and Sanchez' answers seemed,
Markeson said, suspicious. Markeson searched Sanchez,
found a screwdriver and placed him under arrest for
possession of burglary tools. There also was an active
warrant out for Sanchez' arrest stemming from a Steele
County drunken-driving case.
Sanchez' hearing this
week is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday and is open
to the public.
Sanchez: I Wasn't
Told Of My Rights
Defendant in murder
case says he was never told he could contact Mexican
officials for advice
By Robb Murray -
Free Press Staff Writer
Thursday, December 07, 2000
WASECA - Lorenzo
Sanchez says authorities violated his rights by not
specifically telling him - a Mexican citizen - that he
had a right to contact Mexican officials for legal
Prosecutors say it
would have been impossible for Sanchez, who has been
arrested several times for crimes in two states and
represented in previous cases by the attorneys he has
now, to not have been told at some point about his
hearing, where Sanchez stands accused of killing 12-year-old
Cally Jo Larson on April 20, 1999, centered on this
debate and a legal concept called the Vienna Convention.
A provision of the
Vienna Convention requires arresting authorities to
notify a foreign citizen of the right to seek help or
legal advice from the consulate of their native country.
In this case, Sanchez' attorneys say Waseca police
should have told Sanchez of his right to call the
Mexican Consulate office in the United States.
But authorities say
they never knew, even though Sanchez spoke limited
English, that Sanchez was a citizen of Mexico. He told
authorities on several occasions he was from Texas. He
even produced a Texas identification card and birth
certificate to prove it.
It wasn't until later
- weeks after Sanchez claimed in statements to
authorities that he was a U.S. citizen - that they
obtained his true identity.
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says the Vienna
Convention, by allowing foreigners access to consulate
officials, helps "guard against the possible
mistreatment of prisoners, and to facilitate the
presentation of an effective legal defense by those
possibly facing serious charges in a language they don't
understand under a legal system with which they are
Wednesday with the help of an interpreter. He said he
knew he had certain rights, but that authorities never
gave him an opportunity to use a phone and never
provided him with the phone number or address of the
Mexican consulate. His first attempt to contact the
consulate came, he said, after an another inmate in the
Olmsted County Jail gave him the phone number.
Judge Lawrence Collins
decided to delay ruling on whether Sanchez' Vienna
Convention rights were violated until Sanchez and his
attorneys decide whether to appeal an issue brought up
Tuesday. Collins ruled against Sanchez Tuesday in a
request to challenge Sanchez' original arrest on his
burglary case. That arrest led to the discovery of
evidence that made Sanchez the prime suspect in the
Even though another
judge already ruled the original arrest was legal,
Sanchez wanted to revisit the issue during this trial.
Collins denied that request, and now Sanchez and his
attorneys are expected to appeal. If they do, they'll
have to seek a writ of Mandamus from the appeal court
ordering Collins to allow them to again argue the arrest
issue. Such requests are typically handled much quicker
than the months-long appeals process most cases go
Cally Jo was found
dead in her home April 20, 1999, less than two hours
after walking home from her school bus. She had been
sexually assaulted, stabbed in the chest and left
hanging by her neck.
The case was moving
slowly until Sanchez was arrested in February. After
pleading guilty to a string of burglaries, he was
sentenced to four months in prison in May. Then in July,
a grand jury indicted him for first-degree murder.
After suffering a loss
of sorts on Tuesday when they were told they couldn't
revisit the burglary arrest issue, Sanchez and his
attorneys won a pair of minor victories Wednesday.
Several months ago the
two sides argued over their exchange of evidence.
Prosecutors were willing to disclose their DNA evidence
but insisted on charging Sanchez' defense team several
thousand dollars to cover photocopying costs. Sanchez
challenged that, and on Wednesday Collins ruled in his
Said Collins, "the
conditions attached ... were so prohibitive as to be
tantamount to a denial of data."
Collins ordered the
parties to arrange funding so that a DNA expert hired by
the defense could travel cross country to inspect the
data and reproduce only the documents necessary to the
On another issue,
prosecutors withdrew a request to inspect medical
records from the Texas prison where Sanchez served a
three-year term. They had hoped a prison medical
official would have noted the existence of bead-like
implants in Sanchez' genitalia, implants that could have
worsened the severity of the injuries done to Cally Jo's
body. Prosecutors hoped the Texas prison notation on the
implants would establish Sanchez had the implants prior
to the murder.
In lieu of that
documentation, though, prosecutors now say they will use
witness testimony to achieve the same result.
Collins set a trial
date of March 7.
admits slaying child
A man admitted in
court Monday that he killed 12- year- old Cally Jo
Larson when she arrived home from school as he was
burglarizing her family's Waseca home in April 1999.
In a surprise guilty
plea, Lorenzo Sanchez chose a chance at parole in 30
years rather than face a March 27 trial that could have
put him behind bars for the rest of his life. A phony
Texas identification card (Sanchez is an illegal
immigrant [alien] from Mexico) may have led to Cally
Sanchez told District
Court Judge Lawrence Collins that he burglarized the
Larson home and left, then realized he had misplaced his
ID card. He returned to the house and was looking for
the card when Cally Jo arrived home from school.
guilty in murder of 12-year-old Cally Jo Larson
Mon Mar 5
Sanchez pleaded guilty today to one count of
premeditated first-degree murder in the 1999 killing of
12-year-old Cally Jo Larson. Sentencing is scheduled for
Tuesday morning; Sanchez will receive a life sentence,
which means he will not be eligible for parole for 30
years. Members of Cally Jo's family are expected to
speak in court.
The victim, Cally Jo