The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the murder of a Minneapolis woman whose remains were found in Gooseberry Falls State Park. Investigators believe she was murdered near the time she disappeared.
On May 6, 2014, an off-duty Lake County Sheriff’s Office employee discovered the skeletal remains of a woman in a rarely-traveled part of the park. Based on examinations of the remains by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office and a forensic anthropologist, investigators determined that the individual had been the victim of homicide.
In August 2014, BCA scientists matched DNA from the remains to that of family members who provided DNA in 2013 as part of the BCA’s unidentified remains effort. The DNA identified the victim as Cassandra Rhines of Minneapolis. Rhines had been missing since June 1985. She was 19 at the time she went missing.
“Cassandra Rhines was last heard from in June 1985, when she called a friend to confirm her attendance at her Goddaughter’s birthday party in Minneapolis the next day,” said Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson. “She never showed, and was never heard from again.”
Rhines lived in a multi-unit apartment complex at 2700 Grand Avenue South near Whittier Park in Minneapolis. Investigators want to hear from people who knew her or who lived in the vicinity of the building at the time and who may have information that would be helpful to the investigation.
At the time of her disappearance, investigators believe Rhines may have been involved in prostitution and may have worked as an exotic dancer. In addition, investigators believe that Rhines may have been living with a man. They’re seeking the public’s help to identify him because he may be able to provide information about the time during which she disappeared.
“Investigators need the public’s help to better understand who Cassandra Rhines knew and who may have sought to harm her,” said BCA Assistant Superintendent Drew Evans. “The clearer picture we have of the time when she disappeared, the better chance we have of finding out who killed her.”
Anyone with information about Cassandra Rhines is urged to contact the Lake County Sheriff’s Office at 218-834-8385 or the BCA at 651-793-7000, 877-996-6222, via email at email@example.com or via the BCA Tip Form at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/bca/bca-divisions/investigations/Documents/BCA-Tip-Form.pdf. Tips can be anonymous.
Steps to be Taken by Families with Missing Relatives
Start by contacting Minnesota Missing & Unidentified Persons Clearinghouse manager Kris Rush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-793-1118. Be sure to have the missing person’s name and date of birth. The BCA will guide you through the necessary steps, including:
- Ensuring that a missing person report is on file with the local law enforcement agency, and that the information was entered into the FBI’s NCIC missing person file.
- Making arrangements for a DNA sample (cheek swab) and signed consent form.
- Coordinating the collection of dental records, photos and any items which may contain the missing person’s DNA (toothbrush).
Facts about the BCA’s Unidentified Remains Effort
- Human remains collected from medical examiners offices across Minnesota are being examined as part of this effort. Dozens of sets of human remains have been located thus far.
- In some cases, specific details regarding how the remains were recovered is unclear.
Facts about Unidentified Remains – the National Picture
- According to National Institute of Justice, 40,000 sets of unidentified remains are held in medical examiners offices across the nation.
- Only about 15% of unidentified remains have been entered into the FBI’s missing person database.
- Without the DNA from the missing person or their family members, these individuals may never be identified.
Facts about Minnesota Missing Persons
- Currently there are 198 Minnesotans who have been missing more than a year. At any given time there are more than 500 missing Minnesotans.
- More than 10,000 people are reported missing in Minnesota each year.
- Public information about missing and unidentified persons is available. Start with the Minnesota Missing and Unidentified Persons Clearinghouse at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/bca/bca-divisions/administrative/Pages/missing-unidentified-persons.aspx and www.namus.gov.
Facts about DNA
- Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) – each cell contains significantly more mtDNA than nuclear DNA. This makes it very useful in cold cases where samples are old or degraded. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from a person’s mother, and will be the same for all family members with the same maternal lineage.
- Nuclear DNA – each cell contains a small amount of nuclear DNA. However, this DNA is inherited from both parents and is unique to an individual, with the exception of identical twins. This type of DNA testing is more widely used in forensic laboratories across the country.
About the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) provides investigative and specialized law enforcement services to prevent and solve crimes in partnership with law enforcement, public safety and criminal justice agencies. Services include criminal justice training, forensic laboratory analysis, criminal histories and investigations.
Recent BCA Activity
- A Faribault man pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography after a BCA-led investigation revealed the man possessed child pornography and received and distributed child pornography via email.
- A Maynard, Minn. woman was sentenced to six years in prison for a 2014 stabbing death. BCA agents investigated in partnership with several local departments.
- DNA testing completed at the BCA identified a Texas murder victim 35 years after her death.