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A Duluth woman has admitted to helping a friend get rid of a St. Paul man's remains in Lake Superior last year. 

Tommi Lynn Hintz, 32, pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of being an accomplice after the fact to murder in connection with the killing and dismemberment of 34-year-old Richard Anthony Balsimo last year. 

A second felony charge against Hintz for interference with a dead body has been dismissed. She is tentatively scheduled to be sentenced in Cook County on Feb. 28, according to court records. 

Two others face murder charges for the killing and dismemberment of Balsimo. 

Jacob Colt Johnson, 35, of Superior, Wisconsin, is charged with second-degree intentional murder. Robert Thomas West, 40, of Duluth/South Range, Wisconsin, is charged with aiding an offender and interference with a dead body. 

West is set for a three-week trial beginning on Jan. 24, 2023 and Johnson is scheduled to make his next court appearance on Aug. 22. 

Thursday's guilty plea by Hintz is the first first among the three defendants. 

Under the agreement, Hintz is expected to receive a probationary sentence in exchange for truthful testimony in court and cooperation with law enforcement and prosecutors in the ongoing cases against both Johnson and West.

What happened

According to a criminal complaint, Balsimo was initially reported missing on June 20, 2021. His body was found, dismembered and placed in five-gallon buckets in Lake Superior near Grand Portage on July 15 and 16.

A medical examiner ruled Balsimo died of "homicidal violence" and a criminal complaint suggests that he was shot in the torso before his body was dismembered and thrown into the lake. 

Balsimo was riding with Johnson from Duluth to the Twin Cities on June 19. While they were in the car that day or the early morning hours of June 20, Johnson told West he and Balsimo were arguing and Balsimo threatened the others in the car with a knife, so Johnson shot him "numerous times," according to the complaint. Two women in the car at the time took off running when Balsimo was shot.

Johnson, who was driving a different car, was arrested on June 24, 2021 on unrelated charges. His car was found "burned and unidentifiable" on June 26.

West told investigators on July 15 that he met with Johnson and helped come up with a plan to dispose of Balsimo's body, adding he helped Johnson dismember Balsimo in an RV in Douglas County and put the remains in buckets with cement, charges state. Evidence of this was discovered on July 16 on the property of the RV.

West contacted Hintz about needing a boat to get rid of "items that could never be found," the complaint states. And he and Hintz traveled to Grand Portage on June 22 to meet with a boat owner. On the way, West told Hintz he had a body in the back of his truck.

The boat operator told investigators he met with West who asked to boat him on Lake Superior, where West dropped two 5-gallon buckets and "one large tote," which he claimed to be the body of a dog, into the lake, charges said. West had said he was also disposing of personal belongings.

The boat owner helped officials locate where the buckets were dumped, with the BCA recovering the tote and one bucket. Inside the tote was a human torso with legs, arms and head removed, charges state. In the pocket of a pair of pants was a casino players card belonging to Balsimo.

Parts of the gun, which West said he dismantled and discarded in Lake Superior, were later recovered where West said he'd gotten rid of it, the complaint says.

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