She was killed 34 years ago; now a suspect is charged with her murder

DNA evidence led to the charge in the Minneapolis case

"He's been a target of ours for a long time," is what Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman had to say about Darrell Rea on Wednesday. 

The county's head prosecutor had just charged Rea, now 62, with murdering a 17-year-old Minneapolis girl back in 1983. 

DNA evidence, Freeman said, has finally given prosecutors a strong enough case to charge Rea, who is in jail with his bail set at $1 million

"In 1983 we didn't have DNA as a tool. We had blood and we had some evidence but it was simply not enough," Freeman said. 

The case

Rea is charged with second degree murder in the death of Lorri Mesedahl, whose body was found along some railroad tracks in north Minneapolis on the morning of April 2, 1983. 

Investigators said she'd been raped and beaten to death. Swabs of semen were taken from her body but there was no DNA testing back then. 

Thirty years later during a push to solve cold cases, investigators took the semen out of storage and put together a DNA profile of the suspect. More recently that profile was found to match Rea's DNA, which was on file with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the criminal complaint says. 

The victim

"Lorri was your all-American 17-year-old girl back in 1983," her friend Sue Baker said at a news conference Wednesday. 

Mesedahl had been to a party on the night she was killed. Investigators learned that after getting home, she had slipped out of the house again to visit a friend. But the friend's grandmother would not let her into the house so late at night. That was the last time Mesedahl was seen alive, authorities say. 

"She was free-spirited, always had a smile on her face, and made us laugh," said Baker. "Clothes, hair, and spending time with friends on the weekends were what made her happy. And that's what she was doing on that last Friday night of her life, with us." 

The suspect 

County Attorney Freeman says over the years Darrell Rea was convicted of some minor crimes. But he was a suspect in several other cases, especially sexual assaults, dating back to the 1970s. He was arrested and sometimes charged with those crimes but never convicted.

DNA tests in the 1990s connected him to at least one of those cases, but by then the statute of limitations has expired and Rea could not be prosecuted. 

There is no statute of limitations for murder. A conviction on the second-degree charge could bring 40 years in prison for Rea. His next court appearance is scheduled for Friday.

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