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Man convicted after DNA evidence linked him to teen's 1983 murder

The 64-year-old from St. Louis Park will be sentenced next week.
Laurie Mesedahl

A St. Louis Park man has been found guilty of the 1983 murder of a 17-year-old girl in Minneapolis.

The rape and murder of Laurie Mesedahl had gone unsolved for 30 years when police started a review of the cold case in 2013.

A re-testing of DNA samples taken from semen found at the scene ultimately led them to Darrell Rea, who was convicted of second-degree murder on Wednesday.

He will be sentenced on Monday, though the Hennepin County Attorney's Office notes that he'll be sentenced based on 1983 guidelines, which would mean 10 years in prison.

The teenager's death

The body of Laurie Mesedahl was found in the Soo Line Railroad yard near 28th Avenue North on Apr. 2, 1983. 

She went to a party the night before, but after returning home around 2:30 a.m., she left her house a half-hour later. She knocked on the door of a friend's house at 32nd and Bryant Avenues North at around 3 a.m., but was not allowed inside.

Her body was found a short distance away, with investigation suggesting she'd been raped, strangled to unconsciousness, driven to the train yard, dragged between two trains, and then beaten to death.

Police actually obtained Rea's DNA in 1993, when he was linked to a 1988 incident in which a woman was raped, strangled and assaulted with a sharp object.

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That victim escaped and police obtained DNA from blood on her clothes, which led police to Rea five years later when new DNA technology became available.

While the statute of limitations meant he couldn't be charged in the 1988 case, police had his DNA on file and when Mesedahl's case was re-opened in 2013, it matched the sample taken from her body.

He was initially arrested in 2015 and questioned about the teenager's death, but was released without charges. A subsequent investigation led police to enough evidence to file charges in September 2017.

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