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Roommate charged in 2007 killing of 18-year-old North Dakota woman

Police say they've solved the 15-year-old cold case.

After nearly 15 years, police have arrested a suspect in the 2007 killing of 18-year-old Anita Knutson in Minot, North Dakota.

Knutson's roommate at the time of her death, Nichole Rice, now 34, of Minot, was arrested at 3:25 p.m. Wednesday without incident while at her civilian job on Minot Air Force Base. 

She was charged Thursday with murder in Knutson's June 4, 2007, death, court records show. Rice will make her first court appearance Thursday afternoon, jail records show. 

Knutson, a native of Butte and a student at Minot State University, was found fatally stabbed in her off-campus apartment, Minot Daily News reports. Knutson's father called the police because he hadn't heard from his daughter for a few days, which was unusual, and police discovered Knutson dead, lying face down on her bed, covered with a housecoat, KX News said.

"Now after nearly 15 years of investigating and following up on leads, the suspect is in custody," Minot Police Chief John Klung said at a news conference on Wednesday

Rice was always a person of interest in the case but there was never enough to arrest her, Klung said. 

"My heart goes out to the family. I wish we could have solved this sooner but at the same time, I'm glad to say that we have the person responsible for the murder of Anita Knutson in custody," Klung said. 

Most of the detectives who worked on Knutson's case initially have retired, Klung said, but the Minot Police Department didn't forget about the case.

“We tried to actively investigate Anita’s case for the past few years, and finally, with the help of Cold Justice, we were able to move forward and regain focus. Due to the resources, logistics, planning and experts they were able to provide, we were able to obtain an arrest warrant," Klung said. 

Cold Justice is a TV show that features detectives who go to small towns and try to solve unsolved murder cases. Klung says the "turning point" in the case was pulling all the information police have had together with a little bit of "refocusing," a lot of "paying attention to the fine details" and being able to have officers dedicate their time to solving the case.

In the past, staffing issues and lack of resources prevented the department from giving the case the attention it needed to come to a solution, he added.

Klung would not provide any details about the evidence that led to Rice's arrest. 

“A lot of it isn’t new information. There were a few details that came up, and over time, things start to develop,” he said. "We've turned over every leaf already. It was just a matter of putting all that information in front of new investigators and letting them do their work."

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Klung said it's a relief to know someone has been arrested, adding: "It's unnerving to know that somebody is out there that murdered somebody, and in this case, there was not one person who had anything bad to say about Anita. So to me, this was a young girl with a great future that was taken away from her family way too soon."

In a statement to Bring Me The News, the Ward County State's Attorney's Office said: 

"The State’s Attorney’s Office declines to provide too many details in this matter, as we prefer to try the case in a court of law rather than in the court of public opinion. We would like to extend our gratitude to the Minot Police Department, particularly Capt. Dale Plessas and detectives Mikali Talbott and Carmen Asham, for the hard work they have put into this case."

Although someone has been arrested in Knutson's death, the state's attorney's office is encouraging anyone with information on the case to contact the Minot Police Department at 701-857-0111.

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