Missing Minnesotans: Susan Swedell | KSTP.com

Missing Minnesotans: Susan Swedell

February 20, 2018 04:50 PM

The sentencing of Danny Heinrich this past November ended the state's most high-profile missing child case. 

We now know what happened to Jacob Wetterling, but the whereabouts of dozens of other Minnesota children is still a mystery.

There are 39 kids from Minnesota currently considered missing by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

KSTP is profiling some of the cases of those children whose families have been waiting the longest.

Nineteen- year-old Susan Swedell disappeared from Lake Elmo 29 years ago this week. To her family she is very much alive. And to law enforcement, the case is active.

After almost three decades, the Washington County Sheriff's Office still stays in touch with Susan Swedell's family.

KSTP was there when they met with her mother Kathy and sister Christine at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Enter.

"You know it's still an active, open investigation," said Det. Chuck Aldean. "Cold case is kind of a misnomer."

In fact, Aldean says they received a tip about Susan recently. "There's been members of the public that have come forward with information that we feel is credible to follow up on."

While he wouldn't elaborate on the lead, the news gives the Swedell family hope. Twenty-nine years is a long time.  Susan's younger sister Christine says "It's been a nightmare. Nothing makes sense."

Susan Swedell got off work at the Kmart in Oak Park Heights on Jan. 19, 1988. She called her mom and said she was coming home. It was a snowy night and only about a 15-minute ride.

"So she took Stillwater Boulevard" says Christine. "And we know that because the gas station attendant saw her pull in from Stillwater Boulevard.

Susan was having car problems. She stopped here at the gas station on Stillwater Boulevard and Manning Avenue and asked the clerk if she could leave her car here. Then she got into another car with a man and they drove off.

"And you know hasn't been seen or heard from since" says Aldean.

"It's like she fell off the face of the earth” adds Christine. “My thought, and my only thought, is that because she was so highly communicative and we had such a strong bond, I can't imagine her running off."

Jane Straub, from The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, says in missing persons cases families are also victims. 

“A lot of holidays, a lot of birthdays, a lot of celebrations,” said Straub. “And it's day after day that that important family member is missing and there aren't answers. And that leaves quite a big hole."

"It's just been extremely stressful" says Christine. "Every day you just wake up to it."

Aldean is motivated by the Swedell family's grief.

"There isn't a day that goes by that they don't think about Susan and wonder what happened,” said Aldean.

There is a $25,000 reward for information about where Susan is. They hope the money will make someone talk.

"I think in Susan's case somebody knows something," said Straub. "And over time relationships may change, loyalties may not be there anymore. So someone who may have been willing to keep a secret 29 years ago, may not be will to keep that secret anymore."

Christine doesn't know what to think.

"If I was looking at this case outside of myself I would realistically think she was gone,” said Christine.  “But when you're inside of it, you don't have that closure. So you're not thinking that way. You're very hopeful."

One thing Christine does know is that her sister is alive in her heart. "Always, I mean she's there all the time. I love you Sue. And I need to know what happened to you."

The Swedell family says they will be meeting with the Minnesota BCA soon to go over everything in Susan's case file from the past 29-years.  

If you have any information on what happened to Susan Swedell call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE LOST.

You can also find information on Minnesotans who are missing at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center here.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also has information.


Kevin Doran

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