By T.J. Pyette
The prosecutor assigned to the Russell Turcotte homicide said investigators don't have much to go on.
In an e-mail dated Nov. 7, Ramsey County State's Attorney Lonnie Olson told a social justice activist, "This is a case where the trail of the murderer is cold."
Olson said the strategy of the investigative team is to wait for the murderer to confess. "In our experience, we expect that the best chance for the murderer to be brought to justice is by confession of the culprit," he wrote.
Ramsey County Sheriff Steve Hamre confirmed Tuesday that the e-mail was written by Olson from Hamre's computer, but said that the investigation is not in a sit-and-wait phase.
"We are continuing to investigate this full-bore. We are still actively searching for leads and when we are done searching, we'll find somewhere else to search," Hamre said.
"It would be unfair of me to comment on the contents of that letter," he added, "but I would like to say I hope that (waiting for a confession) does not become our only strategy."
Olson could not be reached for comment.
Turcotte's body was found in a shelter belt near Devils Lake, N.D., on Nov. 5, about 90 miles west of Grand Forks, where Turcotte was last seen on July 12 as he hitchhiked home to Montana from a hippie gathering in Minnesota.
Olson sent the e-mail to Hunter Gray, regional organizer of the Democratic Socialists of America Anti-Racism Committee. Gray has criticized Grand Forks law enforcement for not aggressively investigating after Turcotte was reported missing.
The e-mail said a confession would most likely be obtained in a prison setting and that the only way a jury would believe such a confession would be if it contained elements that only the murderer could know.
Olson asked Gray to remove references to Turcotte's homicide from his Web site so as not to interfere with the investigation.
"The murderer may very possibly be reading your Web site," he wrote.
Gray posted a response on his Web site: "I obviously have no intention of removing or reducing my Web site page covering the Turcotte tragedy in any fashion whatsoever."
He added, "Let's hope a far more zealous and immediate search for the killer or killers is being conducted by North Dakota officials than the apparently leisurely approach laid out in this extraordinarily strange communication."
Hamre admitted that authorities do not have any suspects, and said he has not yet received the results of the autopsy.
Once the autopsy results are available, Hamre said, he will not make public any information that only the killer could know.
Hamre said last week he doesn't believe there is any connection between Turcotte's homocide and the slayings of three Turtle Mountain Chippewa men in and around Grand Forks in September 2001. Turcotte was also a member of the Turtle Mountain clan.
Gray, a former Indian studies professor at the University of North Dakota who formerly used the name John Salter Jr., said speculated on his Web site about a link between the cases. Gray is the chair of the Native American Commission for the Socialist Party USA and is a former head of the Mayor's Committee on Police Policy in Grand Forks, and later chair of the city's Community Relations Committee.
Hamre also said he has no reason to believe that the disappearances of four college-age students missing in the Upper Midwest are connected to Turcotte's death, although, he said, "All avenues are still being explored."
All four students, 20 to 21 years of age, disappeared after visiting bars or being at parties late at night. The missing students, one in Wisconsin and three in Minnesota, disappeared in a time period between Oct. 30 and Nov. 9.
Turcotte's father, William Turcotte of Havre, said last week that he hoped the family would be given some answers when they retrieved Russell's body. He also said he was anxious to hear the results of the autopsy.
"I hope it (the autopsy report) leads somewhere, rather than just telling us they have a cold trail," Turcotte said.
Gray released Olson's e-mail on Monday after inquiries he made to the North Dakota governor's office and the state attorney general regarding the message received no response.