Investigators seek information from public about death of woman 49 years ago; Family is from Hayfield
Published 3:35 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019
ST. PAUL — Investigators with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office have an important new clue in their investigation into the death of a woman found in an abandoned Mille Lacs County home 49 years ago. They now know her name.
Through a DNA match to family members, the BCA has identified the woman as Gloria Frieda Rieken, 18, of Minneapolis. Rieken was a freshman student at the University of Minnesota at the time of her disappearance. One morning in early November 1970, Rieken left her apartment on foot for school but never arrived.
The Herald reached out to the family for comment, though family spokesman Richard Rieken declined comment, saying the family won’t be fielding questions at this point and in the investigation and is going to wait to see how the case turned out, before publically commenting.
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“The family is just looking for a little privacy at this time,” Rieken said.
On Nov. 10, 1970, a neighbor discovered the remains of an unidentified woman inside an abandoned and burned home at 20692 Keystone Road in Mille Lacs County.
At the time, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that while the fire did not cause the woman’s death, they could not determine what did. Without knowing who she was, how she died, or how she came to be in the home, her death remained a mystery and she was eventually interred at Milo Cemetery in Mille Lacs County.
After hearing about the BCA’s unidentified remains effort, several members of Rieken’s family in Hayfield came forward in 2013 to provide DNA samples for comparison to unidentified remains. Separately, in 2018 the BCA and a forensic anthropologist assisted the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office with exhuming the woman who had been found in the abandoned home to try to obtain her DNA.
The two DNA samples were matched this month.
“Learning her identity gave us our first break in this case in nearly a half century,” said Mille Lacs County Sheriff Don Lorge. “Now we can try to piece together how she came to be in Mille Lacs County, and hopefully, how she died.”
“This is not the ending any family would hope for, but it is information,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans. “After a half century of waiting and wondering, the Riekens can at last bring Gloria home to rest.”
“Without her family’s decision to come forward, we would never have been able to identify Gloria Rieken,” said BCA Deputy Superintendent of Forensic Science Services Knutson. “Once again, this speaks to the importance of family members of missing people coming forward to provide DNA samples.”
Investigators are asking the public to come forward with any information about Rieken’s disappearance. Even the smallest detail could help investigators piece together what happened. Anyone with information about Gloria Rieken is urged to contact the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office at 320-983-8250, or the BCA at 651-793-7000, 877-996-6222, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tips can be anonymous.
Families with missing relatives can contact Minnesota Missing & Unidentified Persons Clearinghouse manager Kris Rush at email@example.com or 651-793-1118. Be sure to have the missing person’s name and date of birth. The BCA will guide you through the necessary steps, including ensuring that a missing person report is on file with the local law enforcement agency, and that the information was entered into the FBI’s NCIC missing person file, making arrangements for a DNA sample (cheek swab) and signed consent form, and coordinating the collection of dental records, photos and any items which may contain the missing person’s DNA, such as a toothbrush.