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Danielle Jelinek

Danielle Jelinek's ex-boyfriend indicted in her death

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A grand jury has indicted the ex-boyfriend of Cottage Grove native Danielle Jelinek in her death.

Aaron Schnagl, 29, faces a third-degree murder charge in connection with Jelinek’s death. She went missing from his home in rural Chisago County just over a year ago. Her body was found a short distance from Schnagl’s home in May following an extensive search that dragged on for five months, frustrating relatives who had moved beyond the hope of locating the 2003 Park High School graduate alive and just wanted to find her. Jelinek was 27 and living in Oakdale at the time of her disappearance.

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A grand jury was convened last week. The multi-day confidential hearing concluded with the third-degree murder indictment, unsealed Monday. The charge alleges Schnagl unintentionally killed Jelinek by giving her a controlled substance that caused her death.

“It’s alleged he provided her cocaine,” Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter said in an interview Monday.

Results of toxicology tests conducted on Jelinek’s body, along with other details of the case, are being withheld because they are classified as investigative data, Reiter said. The details will become public when presented in court, she said.

Schnagl’s attorney, Rachael Goldberger, said they were disappointed by the ruling. She declined to discuss the allegations further.

“He hasn’t changed at all,” Goldberger said. “He still maintains his innocence on this case.”

The indictment came nearly one year to the day of Jelinek’s disappearance. Reiter said it was a strategic decision to present to a grand jury.

“It allowed us just to develop the case in a way that we think will give us the best chance at a conviction,” she said.

Jelinek spent the night of Dec. 8, 2012, with Schnagl in Minneapolis. She was last seen early Dec. 9.

Schnagl said they returned to his house after the night out and he saw her about 4 a.m. but then passed out. When he woke later that morning, she was gone. He lived in Chisago Lakes Township, north of Washington County.

Authorities said Jelinek’s cellphone, purse and shoes, among other personal items, were at Schnagl’s home.

Family, friends and other volunteers hiked over farm fields and through ditches near Schnagl’s property after Jelinek disappeared, but a deep snowfall the morning she went missing complicated the search. Her body was found in a swamp a few hundred yards from Schnagl’s home when authorities searched the area by helicopter after snow melted.

Chisago County Sheriff Rick Duncan had called Schnagl a “person of interest” during the search for Jelinek.

Schnagl is serving a sentence on a drug conviction. He was found guilty of possession of a controlled substance on his property during the search for Jelinek and is being held at the state prison in Moose Lake.

Schnagl was in court Monday for a first appearance on the charge. His next appearance is scheduled for Jan. 22, when he is expected to enter a plea, Reiter said.

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Scott Wente
Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
(651) 459-7600
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