2:37 PM PDT, August 20, 2021
The body of a Minnesota woman who was reported missing two weeks ago has been found in a shallow grave with a gunshot to the head on the property of the man who offered to drive her home, officials said.
Richard Melvin Peterson, 37, was arrested on Tuesday and is facing second-degree murder charges in connection to the death of Amanda Jo Vangrinsven, 32, a popular bartender and server at the VFW Hall bartender and server, KARE 11 News reported.
Peterson remains in custody and is being held in the Isanti County Adult Detention Center, according to the Isanti County Sheriff’s Department. He had his first court appearance on Thursday, where his bond was set at $1 million with conditions and $3 million with no conditions. His next court date is Sept. 1, at 3:30 p.m. There is no attorney on file at this time, according to the Isanti County District Courts.
The suspects’ wife, Anna Peterson, made a statement to Vangrinsven’s family, Kare 11 News reported.
“My heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to Amanda’s family and friends. The individual who she was last seen with is no longer in the community and is being held in a locked mental health facility. I am actively cooperating and will continue to cooperate with all law-enforcement agencies,” Anna Peterson said.
Vangrinsven was last seen having drinks with Peterson at the VFW before she vanished on Aug. 5, according to a search warrant obtained by KARE.
Peterson, who is married, was described as a regular patron at the VFW, a report said.
Witnesses said Vangrinsven was “noticeably intoxicated” and some of her co-workers had to stop her from having any more drinks, the warrant reportedly said.
Some of her co-workers, who admitted that they had “a bad feeling” about Peterson, offered to drive Vangrinsven home, but Peterson “insisted” on doing it himself, the warrant said, according to People.
After they left, the pair ended up at the Dugout Bar in Bethel, a published report said.
Vangrinsven’s coworkers called the police when she failed to show up for work the next morning, and saw that her car was still in the parking lot. Not working her scheduled shifts would be “completely out of her character” for her, loved ones said.
Search crews, friends and family, and members of the community mobilized teams to locate her.
Peterson claimed he dropped Vangrinsven off at a park near the VFW, according to KARE News. Investigators reportedly said they found “discrepancies” in his statement.
On Aug. 10, investigators executed a search warrant on Peterson’s property, approximately five miles away from the VFW. There, Vangrinsven’s body was found buried, KARE reported.
A preliminary examination of her body found a “projectile consistent with a bullet” lodged in her skull, KARE reported.
Several guns were seized from the Peterson’s property, as well as his vehicle, tractor and backhoe, according to a news outlet.
Vangrinsven’s family’s released a statement following the news, telling those to “keep Amanda in your prayers and hearts,” People reported.
“There is no way to know the correct way to navigate such unexpected and horrific events. The grief is overwhelming and the unanswered questions and influx of information even more so,” the family said in part.
“We have chosen at this time, to be cautious, to not risk any potential impeding of the facts and information that we hope will bring justice and accountability. We want answers. We want justice. We want the person who did this to Amanda be held to the highest level of accountability. While we grieve, while we give strength to each other and get strength from the community, we will continue to remain cautious and quietly, but passionately, continue to advocate for answers, accountability and Justice,” said the family.
Friends and co-workers described Vangrinsven as an “amazing person and friend,” and were in disbelief that she had been killed.
On Aug. 13, a candlelight vigil was held. Family members asked those who attend to wear a pink or camouflage shirt and a baseball cap in her honor because that’s what she liked to wear.
Amanda’s sister Jennifer Plowman said, “our world is destroyed,” Fox 9 News reported.
“We are sad we are heartbroken. We are confused, we are angry and so much more,” Plowman said.
A GoFundMe has been created on Vangrinsven’s behalf. As of Friday, almost $11,000 was raised toward their goal of $20,000.