Our card this week is Cindy Elias, the Six of Diamonds from Minnesota.
Cindy was a 19-year-old college student enjoying a night out with friends when she made the
decision to get into someone’s car, a decision that would change the course of her life and
leave homicide detectives in Minnesota searching for answers for 45 years.
To this day, her story remains the oldest unsolved case in the state, but efforts to
get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding her death have not stopped, and they will
I’m Ashley Flowers, and this is The DAC.
On the afternoon of Thursday, March 24th, 1977, a man named Robert Johnson was driving
home from work in Aurora, Minnesota.
Even though it was the end of March, winter was still hanging on in Aurora, and there
was a fresh dusting of snow covering the fields, trees, and freshly cut logs on either side
of the roadway.
As Robert was driving, he had his eyes peeled because the day before, a neighbor’s dog
had gotten loose and still hadn’t made its way back home.
Robert was looking for the dog, though he figured with the low overnight temperatures,
it would be surprising if the dog had survived the harsh weather.
And right as he was thinking that, something caught his eye.
He spotted a trail of dark red stains in the snow on the road up ahead of his car, and
his first thought was maybe the dog hadn’t succumbed to the weather at all, maybe it
had been hit by a car.
So Robert pulled over and got out to take a closer look.
As he moved closer, the only thing he could think was, if it wasn’t the dog, then maybe
he’d stumbled on a deer poaching scene.
Illegally killing deer from roads in Midwestern states, especially rural areas, is common.
Robert followed the blood trail about 30 steps from the edge of the road, expecting to come
across remains of a dead animal.
And sure enough, when he reached the end of the trail, he found a bone.
Now Robert couldn’t tell just from looking at it exactly what kind of bone it was, but
the scene was fresh enough that he felt that he needed to go back home and call the local
game warden, a man named Jim Gawboy, to report what he’d found.
Within an hour, Robert met Jim back at the scene and pointed out the blood and the bone.
Jim looked surprised.
He said he wasn’t sure if the bone belonged to an animal or not, so he carefully collected
it and took it to the local hospital to have a physician look at it.
A doctor examined the bone and said that it looked like a fragment of human skull, not
something from an animal.
That finding stunned Jim, so he immediately notified the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office
and said he’d meet deputies back out at the scene so they could investigate further.
He notified the county coroner too, in case the bone was in fact the partial remains of
St. Louis County Supervising Deputy Nate Skelton said it took a while for everyone to reconvene
at the scene because it was in the middle of nowhere.
There was nothing sparsely populated outside of the cities.
There was people who had property and had farms and country living, if you will, but
pretty remote for the most part.
So I mean, we’re talking miles from something else there.
Once everyone got to the area, they started examining the blood spots Robert had initially
found in the snowy roadway, and they followed the trail of blood onto a logging road that
had been cut in order for nearby lumber operations to access timber further back with big trucks.
If you’re trying to visualize the scene, picture downed trees and brush along with
some trees that were still standing on either side of a freshly cut logging road that didn’t
have any pavement or gravel or anything.
With so much loose brush and random pieces of wood scattered everywhere, deputies weren’t
even sure if they would find whatever it was that the skull fragment belonged to.
They weren’t even certain of what they were searching for, so they kept their eyes peeled
for signs of both animal and possibly human remains.
The one thing that helped them was the fact that the blood spots and the skull fragment
looked fresh, so they knew that whatever they’d come across would more than likely be obvious.
After a few hours of combing through underbrush, logs, and trees, authorities found what they’d
been looking for, and the reality of the situation took a very dark turn.
Deputies spotted what looked like a clump of blonde hair on the ground, sticking out
from underneath some layers of timber brush.
Under that timber pile was a woman’s lifeless body.
Like hastily thrown under a pile of brush, just covered up best they could.
The victim had been badly beaten in the head, hard enough for part of her skull to break
off and land closer to the main road.
She didn’t look as if she’d been there long, because there was still fresh blood
around her, and there were no signs of decomposition.
Investigators felt in their guts that whatever had happened to this woman had likely happened
just hours before Robert came driving along and found that first bone fragment.
More than likely, she’d been killed sometime in the last 10 to 15 hours, and then hidden
off the remote logging road.
An obvious sign that she was from the area was that she was clothed in a winter coat
and pants, attire you’d normally expect someone to dress in during the spring in northern
As the coroner prepared to transport the woman’s body for autopsy, deputies collected other
items that they felt could be potential evidence, and they looked for more clues that might
have told them who she was, but those things were hard to come by.
For one, the woman had no personal belongings on her or near her body.
No wallet, no keys, no ID, nothing.
And her shoes were even missing.
At first glance, the only thing detectives could really determine was that she was a
young adult with a light complexion and long blonde hair.
Beyond that, her identity was a complete mystery.
Now, since there was that fresh layer of snow on the ground, investigators looked for sets
of footprints or even tire tracks leading to or from her body, but they didn’t find
The lack of any tracks made them think that the snow had fallen after she was killed and
stuffed under that brush pile.
Before leaving the scene and removing the body, deputies did a grid search with hopes
of finding a weapon or something that could have done that kind of damage that the woman
had sustained, but they didn’t find anything.
But there was no doubt in their minds that this young woman had been murdered, just based
off the severity of her injuries.
Here’s Detective Skelton again.
It was something heavy and, you know, maybe a metal bar or a bat or, you know, you can
speculate all day long. It’s something that can do that type of damage and blunt force
trauma. But there was nothing that was left behind.
St. Louis County investigators were anxious to find out who the woman was so they could
launch an investigation and get whoever had done this behind bars.
They weren’t used to working murders, though.
St. Louis County is a rural area.
Even today, it hasn’t changed a whole lot since 1977.
There are just a few small towns scattered about, and back in the 70s, the most common
calls to police were to break up bar fights.
So they knew that they needed their best people and they needed them to work quickly.
One thing that stuck out right away to investigators, even while they’d been at the scene, was
the location of where the victim had been dumped.
You see, you had to want to go that way to end up there.
It wasn’t a heavily used thoroughfare for anyone except log truck drivers.
While they waited for the coroner to ID the victim, deputies canvassed the area to see
if people who live remotely close to it saw anything suspicious earlier in the day or
the night before.
There wasn’t many houses nearby, though, so door knocking wasn’t really an option.
After getting nowhere with that, police interviewed Robert Johnson, the man who first called in
the scene to the game warden as a possible poaching incident.
But Robert didn’t have much to tell authorities.
He said he’d just been driving his usual route home from work when he saw the blood
spots on the roadway and then the bone.
He swore to police he never saw the body of the victim.
When police revealed more information to him, Robert seemed genuinely shocked to find out
what he’d actually stumbled upon.
With nothing further coming from Robert, deputies decided to stay posted up at the
edge of the logging road all night, just in case whoever killed the woman decided to come
back and finish burying her.
But that was a bust because there wasn’t any unusual activity overnight at the scene.
The next day, Friday, March 25th, while deputies continued to work around the logging road
and waited to find out more information from the coroner, a call came in.
A woman wanted to report to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office that her sister,
Cindy Elias, was missing and their whole family was worried about her.
According to information Cindy’s family had gotten from Cindy’s classmates and friends
at the local community college she attended, the last time anyone saw Cindy had been on
Wednesday night in the nearby town of Virginia, Minnesota.
Virginia is a small town.
It’s just maybe 15 minutes south of where Cindy lived in Britt and 15 minutes west of
Aurora, where the unidentified remains had just been found.
Cindy’s friends had told her family that when they’d last seen Cindy, she was kind of tipsy
and had attempted to hitchhike home from a bar in downtown Virginia.
Based on what Cindy’s family told police, Cindy never came home Wednesday night.
No one had contact with her after she left her friends and no one had spoken to her at
all on Thursday the 24th.
Now, the investigator who took the missing persons report knew about the woman’s body
that had been found in Aurora, so he asked Cindy’s sister how old Cindy was, what did
she look like, and what she might have been wearing on Wednesday night.
Her sister said that Cindy was 19 years old and she had blonde hair.
By this point, authorities were pretty certain they knew where Cindy was.
So they had Cindy’s family members come down to the coroner’s office to take a look at
the deceased woman’s body and right away they confirmed her ID.
Cindy’s family was distraught, but police couldn’t hold off questioning them.
They didn’t want to waste any time figuring out everything they could about the 19-year-old
and most importantly, what she’d been up to the night before she died.
What they learned was that Cindy lived at her dad’s house in Britt with her siblings.
Now prior to the early 1970s, the kids had actually lived in California with their mom,
but after Cindy and another sibling graduated from high school, the siblings packed up and
moved to Minnesota to be with their dad.
They learned that she was working as a waitress there while taking classes at the local community
Like a lot of homicide investigations, police started trying to identify potential suspects
who might be closer to home.
You know, a friend, a family member, or an ex-boyfriend, something like that.
Who would do something like this and why?
Is it opportunistic?
Is it someone that knew of her or had it out for her?
But all the information we have is that she didn’t really have too many enemies from what
we could find.
There was no one that really had any beef or issue or something to go along with her
that would go along, do something like this.
Her siblings told police that the last time they saw Cindy was on Wednesday when she was
headed to Klocken for her waitressing shift at the cafe where she worked.
They weren’t sure what time Cindy was scheduled to work or whether or not she also had college
classes that day.
Her family members said that she’d gone out with friends to some bars in Virginia, but
beyond that, they had no clue where she was.
Now, it is important to note that the drinking age actually didn’t change to 21 until years
later in Minnesota.
So back then, Cindy going out at 19 was actually totally normal.
She could drink legally.
Cindy’s sister Judy, who was one of the siblings closest to her, gave deputies a few names
of people that Cindy might have been out with at the bars.
First up was Cindy’s friend, Connie.
When investigators tracked her down, Connie told them that, yes, she had seen Cindy Wednesday
night and the two of them had been out together.
Connie said that the last place they’d been before closing time was this bar on Chestnut
Street called Sammy’s Bar.
Connie told police that everywhere she and Cindy had been on Wednesday night had been
pretty busy, which made for a good time.
At no point during the night, though, had Connie noticed Cindy acting sad or even strange
in any way.
Connie said that she headed home around midnight and Cindy stayed at the bar with a couple
of guys that they’d been bar hopping with.
Connie said that she remembered Cindy was a little drunk, but she assured her friend
that she didn’t need to worry about her and she’d be fine and she’d get a ride home.
She said she was tough.
You know, she was like basically for a 19 year old kid in there.
She was tough as they come, could take care of herself, didn’t really need or ask for
a lot of help, but did her own thing, did it the way she wanted to do it.
And that was just, that was her personality.
And by all indications, even talking to friends and people who knew her, they kind of had
that same recollection of her.
Deputies followed up on Connie’s statement and they went to Sammy’s Bar to interview
A bartender named Thomas told police that he remembered seeing Cindy at the bar late
Wednesday night, drinking and dancing with friends.
Just like Connie had remembered, he said, by the looks of everything going on that night,
Cindy seemed to be having a good time.
She was talking with a lot of different people.
A cocktail waitress named Rebecca told the exact same thing to police.
And she added that the last time she remembered seeing Cindy inside the bar was just after
midnight, maybe about 1215 or 1230.
Rebecca said that Cindy was standing near the front talking to someone, but she couldn’t
Rebecca and Thomas both said that they didn’t really know Cindy very well, but they knew
that she was a regular customer.
Most of their customers were men, so they said Cindy and Connie being at the bar on
Wednesday night stuck out to them.
They were two of only a few women there.
The bar employees gave police several names of regular customers that they could interview,
which led deputies to a guy named Joseph.
And when they talked to Joseph, he said, oh, Cindy, well, that’s the blonde girl I danced
with at Sammy’s Bar.
This piqued investigators interest, but Joseph said that Cindy was so drunk she was stumbling
all over the dance floor.
He said Cindy asked him for a ride home sometime after midnight, but he told her he didn’t
have a car.
Then he went and met up with another girl, and that woman confirmed for police that she
and Joseph went back to her place, made some food around 1.30 in the morning, and went
Deputies noted that as a solid alibi for Joseph.
So next, deputies really wanted to talk to the two guys Connie mentioned that she and
Cindy had been hanging out with.
And luckily, both men agreed to be interviewed.
The first was a local man named Donald.
And he said that he and his friend Eric met up Wednesday afternoon at a music shop in
Virginia where they both bought a record before going to the El Dorado bar.
When they left the El Dorado, he said that they headed towards some other bars on Chestnut
Street and eventually ended up meeting Cindy and Connie, who were also walking down the
The group were all kind of like friends of friends from the area.
She spent a lot of time in the bars downtown in the city of Virginia, which at that time
was basically a mining boom because they were building a couple of new mines in the area.
There was a lot of construction jobs in place, a lot of like a big influx of people and construction
workers and laborers in the area at that time.
So it was, I don’t know, the analogy that people use a lot of time was the Chestnut
Street in the city of Virginia was kind of like a little bit like the Wild West.
So there’s a lot of stuff going on and a lot of bars and a lot of people coming and
Donald, Eric, Connie and Cindy went to Sammy’s bar together.
They grabbed some drinks and they sat at a booth.
Donald remembered Cindy and his friend Eric chatting about California because that’s actually
where Eric had grown up and where Cindy had gone to high school.
He recalled that out of all four of them, Cindy and Eric were the drunkest.
Donald said that they all hung out and eventually Connie said that she was leaving and
mentioned that she was going to walk home.
He thought it was maybe around midnight when Connie left.
So Donald said that he, Eric and Cindy then left the bar to go to a nearby strip club.
But Cindy didn’t want to be seen going in, so she insisted that they use the back door.
But Donald said that Cindy actually fell down and got her white pants dirty.
So instead of going inside, they stood in the back alley and just talked for a while.
Donald said that after that, they all started making plans to go home.
At the time, Donald didn’t have a car and Eric was in no shape to drive, so Cindy mentioned
that she might just try her luck at thumbing it on the side of the road.
There’s no one specific person who was, I don’t think was actually the last person to
see her, but the eyewitness according to that one said about 1230 a.m. they saw her.
She was looking for a ride and mentioned she was going to hitchhike.
Police pressed Donald for more information about what happened after he, Eric and Cindy
Instead, he said that he just went home to his parents’ house, made some food and went
He also noted that while making food, he saw Eric arrive home to his apartment because
he could actually see Eric’s place from his parents’ kitchen window.
He wasn’t sure what time it was when he spotted Eric, but it looked like Eric was alone when
he got home.
Deputies worked to confirm Donald’s story by talking to the guy he got a ride with,
And Randy confirmed that he’d given Donald a ride home late Wednesday night.
His parents, however, couldn’t vouch for him.
They’d been sound asleep when he reportedly arrived back.
He kind of had an alibi, I guess, if you will, but we’ve got no physical evidence to prove
that he or, you know, are there at that point, but they were together that night.
We censored Deputy Skelton because he actually called Eric by his last name and we’re only
using his first name in this episode.
Anyway, Donald told investigators that he didn’t have anything to do with Cindy’s murder.
He had only met her a few times.
Police had to accept that for the time being because they didn’t have anything further
to keep Donald on at the police station.
The next person police interrogated was Eric.
He told police a similar story as Donald, but with fewer details.
He admitted that he was drunk Wednesday night and he didn’t remember much.
All he said that he did remember was Cindy asking everyone with an earshot for a ride
home, but that none of them had a car.
Now Eric was working construction in the area at the time and lived with his girlfriend
Terri in Virginia.
Terri was at work Wednesday night, so she wasn’t out at the bars with the group, but
Terri confirmed for deputies that Eric had come home late Wednesday night, just like
Donald had said.
Eric insisted to them he didn’t have anything to do with Cindy’s murder, and he said despite
their bonding over their mutual connection to California, he and Cindy didn’t have
He said she was just an acquaintance and he was faithful to his girlfriend.
All in all, if police came out of those interviews with any theories on who killed Cindy, they
kept those to themselves.
In a matter of days, news of Cindy’s murder hit the local papers.
People living in Aurora and the surrounding areas were shocked.
In a March 29th, 1977 article by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a headline read,
Help sought in death of Virginia woman.
Police at the time still weren’t releasing Cindy’s cause of death, but the article went
on to encourage anyone who saw Cindy the day or night before her murder to call police.
Police eventually made their way to the cafe where Cindy was a waitress.
They questioned as many people as they could, wanting to know if she had been acting strange
her last day, or if anyone had seen men who maybe hung around a little too long.
Maybe a regular customer of Cindy’s who was creepy.
But co-workers at the diner told police she seemed perfectly fine, and there weren’t
any oddball customers that stood out.
Her boss said the same thing.
Cindy was a hard worker who always showed up on time and made good tips.
She waited on tables with a smile on her face and was well-liked by her co-workers and customers.
Ultimately, police made little progress in the week after Cindy’s body was found.
It seemed like every which way they turned for clues in Cindy’s life, they kept hearing
the same things.
No one disliked her.
She didn’t have a boyfriend or any jealous ex-lovers who would want to harm her.
The thought started to creep into some investigators’ minds that maybe Cindy’s killer was long
gone from Minnesota.
A stranger who’d just shown up in the small town, picked up Cindy while she was hitchhiking,
killed her, and then took off out of state.
This theory of a random murderer started to feel more and more like a legit possibility
the longer police worked the case.
But the sheriff’s office had several interesting calls come in that made them press pause on
that random killer theory.
You see, these tips strongly indicated that Cindy may have had a group of acquaintances
that her family and school friends didn’t know anything about.
People who were definitely rough around the edges.
I guess outlaw motorcycle game as a loose term for, you know, northeastern Minnesota,
that’s probably what I would consider them.
But I don’t know how strong of a foothold they had or what they were, to be brutally
But I know that they were here and there was a lot of information circling around that
group of people.
Learning that Cindy was friends with several members of a motorcycle gang was a twist investigators
didn’t see coming.
It was surprising to them, and also to Cindy’s family.
As soon as that information got out, rumors swirled.
And people around town thought, well, it can’t be a coincidence that a pretty young
blonde from Brit who hung around with outlaws turned up dead.
And it wasn’t just local residents who were talking about this development either.
There was information coming out of the prisons as well, you know, people that are pointing
fingers that direction as well, which is why we, they followed up with it and looked into
And like I said, it was more, I think I attribute it more to a lot of, they were trying to get
some sort of standing or street cred from this happening and they weren’t really taking
credit for it, but they weren’t really denying it either.
Whether the information regarding Cindy’s connection to members of a motorcycle gang
was just idle chatter perpetuated by inmates or not, this lead sent the investigation in
a new direction.
The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office was familiar with the motorcycle group because
of their members being involved in petty crime in the area.
The deputy skeletons said on a scale between Motorbike Enthusiast Club and Hell’s Angels,
this group fell somewhere in the middle.
They were feared in the community, but it wasn’t like they had a known reputation for
committing violent murders.
Deputies spread out across several towns and rounded up the members one by one.
They all said that they knew Cindy from the bar scene in Virginia, but that’s about all
Some of them even claimed they weren’t even in the area the night that Cindy was killed.
And the men said that they viewed Cindy as more of a little sister and she wasn’t romantically
attached to any of them.
She was a frequent hitchhiker, so sometimes they would give her rides to work or class
and that was it.
According to Detective Skelton, each of those men cooperated with police when asked, and
they’ve always maintained that they had nothing to do with Cindy’s death.
Because no one saw the motorcycle guys at Sammy’s bar or even in the area the night
Cindy died, police had to move on from that theory.
But by the time they did, months had gone by and tips stopped coming in.
Looking at this case, I don’t think that they really had anything to do with it.
And I think it was a lot of time that we sat and spun our wheels over something that really
had no concrete or no substantial evidentiary value to look into.
By summertime of 1977, the case was stalled.
In a bold move, the Sheriff’s Office decided to release Cindy’s cause of death to the public
to see if that would help drum up any new leads.
It was reported in regional newspapers that Cindy died of blunt force trauma to the head.
But the medical examiner couldn’t say exactly what kind of object had been used.
It could have been anything that could be used as a club.
So unfortunately, releasing the cause of death didn’t really move the needle.
No new tips came in, and by September, deputies learned that an important witness in the case
had moved away.
Eric left probably six months after she was found.
He moved to Michigan for a short time and then back to California for work.
Police made note of Eric’s decision to leave the area, but they didn’t have anything tying
him to Cindy’s murder, so they left him alone for a while.
Fall turned into winter, and the one-year anniversary of Cindy’s murder came and went
without any new information.
As the 90s came, advancements in technology came as well.
Witnesses all over the country that were as old as Cindy’s were being solved by new
And that was an option here.
You see, they’d been able to pull a DNA profile off of Cindy’s sweater that had
been preserved in evidence.
And now, the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office wanted to revisit some of the old witnesses
and collect DNA samples to see if they could find a match.
Well over a hundred, I think, of people that were involved or that were around or like
we collected samples from everybody, even the friends and whatever, if they were willing
to give one, we collected them all.
So anyone who was mentioned, if we got a lead or a tip on something to say that, you know,
they thought that these people were involved, we would seek them out.
And if they weren’t alive, we’d find their family and we’d collect a known sample from
Detectives submitted the hundred-some samples they’d collected from people for comparison
to her sweater, but unfortunately, they didn’t get any hits.
No one they’d initially interviewed at the start of the investigation showed up as
Not Robert Johnson, not Donald, not Eric, not Connie.
No one in Cindy’s family.
The next curveball came in the case in early December 1993.
That’s when a woman in a small town just south of Virginia called Eveleth, Minnesota
According to reporting by Brady Slater in the Duluth News Tribune, Luella Letourneau
was last seen on December 13th by her niece.
And then her body was found eight days later in a wooded area known for logging.
She’d been shot, stabbed, and her body was mutilated.
The area Luella was found in wasn’t in Aurora like Cindy, but it was in a similar type logging
area just south of there.
The case also fell in the jurisdiction of the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office.
And as investigators worked the case, they couldn’t help but be reminded of Cindy.
There was one major difference though.
In Luella’s murder, they had a prime suspect from the get-go because the guy who killed
her actually led police to her body.
According to reporting by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Luella had been separated from
her husband Tom when she disappeared.
At the time, the two had been trying to work things out and were considering getting back
Before her body was found, Tom told police that a man Luella had been seeing during their
separation, this guy named Richard Little, was not cool with them getting back together,
and he had threatened to quote, skin him alive.
Police talked to Richard, and on December 21st, 1993, he led them to her body and admitted
to stabbing her to death with a fillet knife when she refused to kiss him.
According to reporting by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Richard was a logger and a trucker
from the nearby town of Gilbert, Minnesota, and he’d been arrested twice in the past
for threatening to kill his then-wife.
In 1994, Richard, who also went by the nickname Dickie, was sentenced to 40 years in prison
for Luella’s murder.
During the investigation, police learned that he’d actually killed Luella on a bridge
over the St. Louis River and then taken her body to the logging area where he dumped it.
Luella’s murder definitely echoed similarities to Cindy’s in a lot of ways, but at the
time of Richard’s conviction, police had no solid reason outside of speculation to
suspect that he killed Cindy 16 years before.
Kind of similar, except for he was romantically involved with Luella, and she decided she
was going to go back to her husband, and he wasn’t a fan of that and ended up killing
By the end of 1994, Richard was in prison, and Cindy’s case remained cold.
Years later, in 2003, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Minnesota Department
of Public Safety announced that they were offering a $50,000 reward for information
leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for killing Cindy.
That announcement garnered some media and community interest in the case.
An April 18, 2003 Minneapolis Star Tribune story featured an interview with Cindy’s
sister, Judy, who said, quote,
It feels like it was yesterday, but it’s been 26 years.
The grief and horror have never gone.
Cindy was only 19, and she had her whole life to look forward to, end quote.
But not long after that, in 2004, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension got an interesting
phone call from none other than Richard Little.
Richard called St. Louis County investigators from prison and said that he might have some
information about Cindy’s murder.
Two special agents went to Faribault Prison to interview him.
Richard told the investigators that a former inmate named Donnie Miller had something to
do with Cindy’s death.
Donnie was deceased by the time Richard brought his name up to authorities, but he said that
while in prison together, he and Donnie discussed Cindy’s murder in detail.
The agents thought it a little convenient, if you will, that of all people, Richard was
the one that had this information.
So while they looked into this story about Donnie, they also asked Richard to supply
his own DNA.
And he agreed.
In 2004, his genetic profile was tested against Cindy’s sweater.
And when the results came back, it was a match, but only a partial match.
That meant that the DNA found on Cindy’s sweater could have theoretically belonged
to Richard or any man who was his direct relative.
It’s a possibility that a male descendant from his lineage left, basically, touched
DNA behind on, basically, on her body.
He had an older brother.
He had four children, two of which were boys.
And we’ve ran through all of them, we’ve interviewed them all.
Richard told police that he was surprised to learn that a DNA profile closely matching
his was on Cindy’s sweater.
He claimed that the only way it could have gotten there must have been from his older
Richard always made the point that, you know, his brother was a bad guy and not a very nice
person. And he could have very well done that.
Keep in mind, Richard talked about his brother being a bad guy all while he was sitting in
prison serving time for cold blooded murder.
The irony is kind of amazing.
Anyway, despite police looking closely at Richard’s older brother, Dave, and even
speaking with him about Cindy’s case, they were unable to chase the lead very far due
to an unanticipated curveball coming their way.
His brother was, I think he was a little older.
His brother’s name was Dave.
And we had interviewed him just after we had interviewed Richard at some point, or he
had entered into the equation.
And we went and talked to him and he passed away of a heart attack like literally weeks
after we interviewed him.
Deputy Skelton said they have no way of really knowing if the partial profile was really
Dave’s because they didn’t have his DNA to test.
We can’t rule him out because of the why DNA hit.
I mean, we don’t have any way to say Dave lived in the area as well.
But his name and anything like that has never come up in anything along those lines.
So the only reason it did is because we got this and Richard Little entered into the
equation. And the reason he fits the mold is because he has already done that.
And he’s currently was in prison for doing something very similar.
Deputy Skelton doesn’t believe it was Dave’s DNA that they found on Cindy, though.
He’s more inclined to think it’s Richard’s DNA just based on the fact that Richard had
knowledge of the remote logging roads in the area where Cindy was likely picked up and
We have the one question that leaves everyone involved.
How did it get there? Who is it?
But we can’t say 100 percent certainty or even, you know, for that matter, to say it’s
him for sure. That’s the problem we run into from the Dickie Little angle.
He was a logger and that’s what he did for a living.
So he would have known it.
But like I said, that’s why when his information came to light, people were like, yeah,
it makes sense.
Over the years, authorities visited Richard many times in prison to try and get him to
But it was fruitless.
He adamantly denied any involvement in it.
He said, I didn’t have any part of it.
For a period of time, they even monitored his phone calls in prison, hoping to build a
case against him.
But as they listened to more and more of his conversations, they realized that something
fishy was going on between him and a former inmate who was known to be a jailhouse
The informant would call Richard, feed him information he’d heard about Cindy’s murder,
and then the two of them would coordinate plans to try and get the $50,000 reward money.
So they hashed this plan together that we were going to try to figure out or point him
in the right direction.
We’re going to collect the reward money and split it.
The discovery of this scheme quickly unraveled the case police were trying to build against
Richard from a prosecutorial standpoint.
Richard had no friends in prison.
His family didn’t like him.
He didn’t have anyone to talk to.
And this guy would call him knowing that I’m trying to get this money.
And he basically kind of seemed like he was almost setting him up to take the hit for
it, which he’s a very plausible suspect and still remains to be to this day.
But that information kind of muddied the waters a lot, especially with our county attorney’s
Detectives knew this plan that Richard and the other inmate had hatched to try and get
the reward money would be used by a defense attorney in court if they choose to charge
him with Cindy’s murder.
So they never charged him and instead kept investigating to see if they could find any
other evidence linking him or anyone else to Cindy’s death.
Then out of the blue, after the 30th anniversary of Cindy’s murder, this would have been in
2008, the sheriff’s office got a call from someone saying they’d heard Cindy had actually
been shot before she was beaten.
Investigators thought it would be unlikely that the coroner, even back in the 70s, would
miss a gunshot wound during an autopsy.
But just to double check, they got permission from Cindy’s family to exhume her remains.
But the second examination of Cindy’s remains using modern technology resulted in the same
findings as before.
There was no doubt Cindy’s cause of death, blunt force trauma to the head, was accurate.
There were no signs that she’d suffered from a gunshot wound.
It didn’t really pan out for a whole lot of anything physical evidence-wise, or all
it did was kind of eliminate that thing and say, well, we couldn’t prove in the information
we had that she’d been shot.
It was not accurate.
The investigation into Cindy’s murder stayed cold after that.
And in 2016, Richard Little died in prison.
He never confessed Cindy’s murder, but his daughter talked to the Duluth News Tribune
after his death and said that she was convinced her dad killed Cindy simply because he was
an awful person.
Three years later, in the summer of 2019, Deputy Skelton and another detective re-interviewed
Eric, one of the original witnesses from the night Cindy was killed.
We’ve been out to California.
We’ve interviewed him a couple of times, and he was a heavy drinker at the time.
And he basically doesn’t recall a whole lot from back then, which I guess is not too odd.
But I mean, if something or you were involved in something as heinous as this, you would
probably have that somewhere in your brain, and it would come out at some point, being
40-some years later.
I wish I had more information or some insight or a crystal ball to go back and say, hey,
what exactly took place here?
But I don’t.
And it’s frustrating, even for the family, because they know we’ve been doing what we
can, and they do what they can on a yearly basis, trying to figure things out, too.
And they’re just trying to get some closure for him to figure this out.
In September 2021, just last year, Eric’s friend Donald died.
Despite his DNA not being on Cindy’s sweater, Donald had always remained a loose person
of interest in Cindy’s death because, according to investigators, every time he was interviewed,
his story changed slightly.
For example, in 2008, Donald was re-interviewed, and he changed his story about seeing Eric
His second version of events was that he’d gotten home, made food, watched the Johnny
Carson show, and then went to bed.
He didn’t mention anything about seeing Eric arrive at his apartment across the street.
And Eric later told police that Donald couldn’t have even seen his apartment from his parents'
kitchen window anyway, like Donald originally stated.
So why would Donald lie about that?
In 2018, Donald was interviewed again, and during that conversation, his story was super
detailed, like more so than even his original statement from 1977.
Detectives said it almost seemed as if Donald was beefing up his story to sound better or
for entertainment value.
In this follow-up, Donald told police he remembered going over to Eric’s house and Cindy and
Connie coming over there before they all went to the bars.
Donald said that he remembered them walking to the bars, and he was jumping in ice puddles
and trying to splash the girls.
He was very, very poignant and very vivid about some stuff he would talk about and other
stuff that would change over time.
But just like Eric, Donald’s DNA was never found on Cindy or at the crime scene, and
he willingly submitted his sample for testing.
So with those leads exhausted, the best bet police have for solving Cindy’s murder is
by getting a better analysis of the DNA samples that they’ve retrieved from Cindy’s sweater.
And they’re trying.
And we just recently have actually resubmitted some of the physical evidence we have with
advancements because smaller and smaller samples of DNA have been tested as of lately to say
that, yeah, we might be able to get a positive profile match with a smaller sample.
Being the length that the case has been there, I mean, it’s been 44 years, so we’re trying
to figure out how we can figure something out here because obviously a lot of the people
and a lot of the players are all either dying or not with us anymore.
So it’s hard to keep up with it.
In the last 15 years, it’s moved way closer to possibly having some sort of disposition
or outcome to get some closure for the family than it’s ever been before.
Investigators and Cindy’s family members remain hopeful that someday they’ll know who
took her life and why she was killed.
Speculation on my part, and that’s speculation at best.
I think she did just what she was saying she was doing.
She was looking for a ride and somebody picked her up and it was an opportunity.
And I don’t know if she wouldn’t do what she was asked to do or if she was asked to
do something she wasn’t willing to do.
And whoever they, he, she, whoever she was with, or they tried to do something and weren’t
able to and did what they did.
So maybe a gross overreaction or something along those lines, or I don’t know.
But it kind of leads me to believe that that’s kind of exactly how it played out.
But it’s just a matter of who.
Like who picked her up?
Where did she go and why?
If DNA fails to provide answers, the hope of solving Cindy’s murder lies with the
Someone who knows something that can finally connect one of their suspects to this case.
Or maybe someone who might be able to provide information that is brand new for investigators
and points them in an entirely new direction.
Either way, finding justice for Cindy Elias is paramount for St.
Louis County investigators who have never stopped trying to identify the monster who
brutally bludgeoned her to death in March of 1977 and who has gotten away with it for
If you know anything that might help investigators, please call the St.
Louis County, Minnesota Sheriff’s Office at 218-471-7134.
Help them close Minnesota’s oldest cold case.
The Deck is an AudioChuck production with theme music by Ryan Lewis.
To learn more about The Deck and our advocacy work, visit thedeckpodcast.com.
So what do you think, Chuck?
Do you approve?