Man charged with first-degree murder of elderly woman in Duluth store


A man has been charged with stabbing a 75-year-old woman to death in a case that has shocked the city of Duluth.

Jesse Alan Dahlstrom, 35, has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder by the St. Louis County Attorney in the death of Sally Marie Pionk at the Super One supermarket on Bristol Street in Duluth, Thursday evening.

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Sally Marie Pionk," county attorney Mark Rubin said. "This is an absolute tragedy. Homicide never makes sense. We will do our best to hold the offender accountable and seek justice in this case."

Police say that the attack on Pionk, of Procter, was a random one, with The Pioneer Press reporting that Dahlstrom is alleged to have told investigators he went to Super One to "either shop or kill somebody," according to a criminal complaint.

Dahlstrom is alleged to have approached Pionk in the bakery section, grabbed her from behind and stabbed her in the neck. He was then wrestled to the ground by store employees.

Duluth in shock

The surrounding neighborhood was said to be "shellshocked" in the aftermath of the attack.

Those who knew Sally Marie Pionk have described her as a "dedicated matriarch," according to the Duluth News Tribune. At the time of her death she was still working – helping senior citizens in need of home care, doing carpentry work and running local rental properties.

"She was amazing – vibrant, still working at 75," Patti Luke, of Luke Chiropractic and Wellness in Superior, told the News Tribune. "Our hearts are broken. She always had a fun little story to tell."

In an editorial, the News Tribune said: "Sadly, yes, what happened Thursday evening in Duluth can happen here. It can happen anywhere ... we know an inexplicable moment of horror can’t truly and accurately reflect and define us, our spirit, our community and who we are."

Northland's News Center reports that Dahlstrom will undergo mental competency evaluation before a grand jury can be convened to consider the first-degree murder charge.

Dahlstrom's family issued a statement to the News Tribune, saying he had endured a "troubled life" and that they had attempted to have him civilly committed seven years ago, but their bid was unsuccessful.

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