The Deck - Deana Patnode (4 of Diamonds, Minnesota)

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Our card this week is Deanna Patnode, the Four of Diamonds from Minnesota.

In 1982, 23-year-old Deanna disappeared without a trace from a bar in South St. Paul, Minnesota.

Decades later, a deck of cards would lead to some closure for her family, but ultimately

leave everyone with more questions than answers.

I’m Ashley Flowers, and this is The Deck.

In February of 2006, Jim Warren was taking on one of his first assignments after being

promoted to detective at the Wabasha County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota.

He was tasked with cleaning the evidence room.

It’s not hazing, it’s just maybe the old rookie, you know, you can clean that up for such a

first job.

So I was cleaning it out in evidence and I slid this box out and it had a white cover

and I didn’t know what it was.

So I opened the box.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know why I opened the box, I just did it.

And I looked down, I saw a skull, some bones and some clothes and I’m like, what the heck

did I, what’s going on here, you know?

So it kind of caught me off guard.

Detective Warren turned the box around and read, bones case, scribbled across the back,

meaning that the remains were unidentified.

He continued with cleaning the evidence room, but something wasn’t sitting right with him.

The thought of a person with a whole life and a family just held in a box in some evidence

room, this is something Detective Warren couldn’t get off his mind.

So he decided to ask to work the case.

Sheriff Rodney Barch remembers his interaction with the newly promoted Detective Well.

Jim here brought the remains in to me and said, can I work on this?

And my response was, what would you possibly do different than what they did back then?

And he said, well, there’s some new technologies.

Not only had DNA improved leaps and bounds since the Jane Doe was found in 1989, but

Detective Warren reminded Sheriff Barch that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension,

or BCA, was working on coming out with a brand new tool that other states had been using,

a cold case playing cards deck.

Detective Warren got the green light from Sheriff Barch, so he dove in headfirst, reviewing

all of the information in the case file.

But like most other Doe cases, there wasn’t much for him to review.

With the information he did have, though, this was the narrative he compiled.

On the morning of May 20th, 1989, a group of three men were out in rural Wabasha County

hunting for mushrooms.

For some reason, they chose to scour a heavily wooded, steep slope that was the median between

the north and southbound lanes of Highway 61, just a few miles south of Kellogg.

It’s a real heavy wooded area where nobody would go in there because you’d have to cross

lanes of traffic even for the mushroom hunters to go down there and look.

So I’m guessing that no one has been in that area before the mushroom hunters.

The mushroom hunters are looking for signs of mushrooms from different types of trees

that are dead, so hard to say why they even went and looked there when there’s so many

other places to look, but we can’t say.

It was there that the mushroom hunters found something that stopped them in their tracks.

About 60 feet away from the southbound lanes, wrapped around the trunk of a tree in kind

of a U-shape, was what appeared to be a human skeleton.

The hunters immediately contacted authorities who confirmed that the remains were human.

We had a full skull, both shoulder blades, rib cages, both femurs, so three quarters

of it was recovered.

It was immediately clear that the remains had been there for a while.

The bones were clean, like they didn’t have any tissue on them, and some had vegetation

growing over them.

It was also obvious right away that it wasn’t by accident that the body ended up in this

median about 60 feet away from the roadway.

It felt like it had been carefully placed there.

Once the coroner was called to the scene and collected the remains, investigators continued

searching the area for anything else that might give them a clue as to who this person

was or what happened to them.

I know that they were out there with metal detectors looking for possible jewelry or

any type of fillings that might have shown up, that might have come out of the, from

the jaw, and they didn’t find anything else other than the skeletons that we ended up

recovering and then some clothes.

The clothes found were an off-white sweater with a collar covered in white buttons and

off-white striped knee-high socks.

Once the coroner examined the bones, he concluded that they belonged to a young woman, 20 to

30 years old, standing around 5 feet 1 inches to 5 feet 5 inches tall.

And because of the bleaching of the bones and the fact that vegetation had grown over

them, the coroner estimated that they had been there, hiding on that median, for about

five years.

If Bartch remembers, there was evidence of blunt force trauma to the skull, but the coroner

couldn’t rule that as the cause of death.

Actually, he wasn’t able to rule any cause of death because he had so little to work

with, which also meant that he couldn’t rule a manner of death, like homicide, accident,

or natural causes.

But there was something he could tell from the skeleton.

The woman had been attacked, or maybe in some kind of accident, either at the time of her

death or shortly before she died.

She had a severe fracture of the upper right arm and a hip injury, both of which appeared

to be untreated.

Again, the coroner couldn’t determine if those injuries were something she received

as she was killed, like if she had been beaten or hit by a car, or if they were something

suffered before her death that just went untreated.

Authorities got to work right away, trying to figure out who she was.

They compared the remains with missing persons reports from all over the state, but nothing

was matching up.

They even tried expanding their search to North and South Dakota, even Wisconsin and

Iowa, but still there was no one reported missing who matched their Jane Doe.

The only resource investigators had at their fingertips was the local media.

The sheriff’s office put out a sketch done by an artist of what the woman may have looked

like in life, hoping to jog someone’s memory.

When nothing really came of that, investigators then sent the skull off to state authorities

to have a clay composite made, which would be a bit more lifelike than the artist’s


Once completed, a photo of the clay composite was shared with the public.

I’ll put a photo of it in the blog post for this episode at

But even with the more realistic rendering of what the woman probably looked like, still

no one was coming forward saying that they recognized her.

While they would give you a pretty realistic look, you’d have to use your imagination

a little bit to put that clay structure to a real face.

And I think that was some of the problems back then.

Although investigators didn’t know who this woman was, what caused her death, or even

if there was foul play involved, they wanted to cover all of their bases.

So they began questioning people.

The BC, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for the state of Minnesota, and our investigator,

and then the sheriff, investigated these three mushroom hunters and dead backgrounds to make

sure that, hey, is this legit or do we need to look into it?

Investigators determined that the hunters weren’t suspicious and didn’t have any

more information to offer.

They truly just stumbled upon the woman’s body and there was nothing more to it.

Police also questioned some people who’d been working on Highway 61 and others who’d

worked on the nearby railroad, but they didn’t know anything either.

After that, the case just went cold.

For 17 years, this woman sat in a box on a shelf waiting for the right person to come


Detective Warren knew he was that person and he was ready to spring into action.

I immediately jumped to this new technology of maybe sending the skull out because I looked

at the clay composite and said, well, the technology is a lot better today than it was.

So that’s the first step I did.

Warren did some digging and found that Louisiana State University was renowned for the work

their anthropology unit was doing.

So he got in contact with them to see what options he had.

They said that they could make a realistic computer-enhanced clay facial reconstruction

and all they would need to do that was the skull.

So Detective Warren sent it off to be examined.

While he was waiting for the facial reconstruction results, he also looked into other ways of

figuring out the woman’s identity, including getting her on the new cold case playing cards

deck that the BCA was putting together.

It proved to be a bit of an uphill battle though, because Wabasha County already had

a face on the deck, Donna Ingersoll, who we actually did an episode on last year.

You see, most of these decks aren’t made up of just one department’s cold cases.

It’s usually a statewide thing and different agencies will submit the cases that they need

help with most.

So for a county inhabited by a fraction of a percent of the state’s population, it seemed

like a stretch for them to get two of the 52 cases featured.

But Detective Warren was persistent and he convinced the BCA to put the Wabasha County

Jane Doe on a card.

He was hoping to have the new and improved facial reconstruction back from LSU before

the cards were printed, but the turnaround time was too tight.

They ended up having no other choice but to put the old original clay reconstruction on

the card instead.

In 2008, the playing cards were finally released.

They were handed out to 515 police departments and 75 jails.

And according to Pioneer Press, 10,000 decks were distributed to inmates at state prisons.

In addition to all of that, PDFs of the cards were posted online on the Minnesota Department

of Public Safety’s website so anyone could see the cases featured.

To everyone’s surprise, soon after their release, the playing cards generated a promising


Just a few weeks after the launch, a man was surfing the internet when he stumbled

across the playing cards on the department’s website.

And that’s when he saw the four of diamonds, the Wabasha County Jane Doe.

Here’s a snippet from a press conference held by the BCA and the Department of Corrections.

He recognized the photo that was on the card as appearing to be similar to a neighbor of

his when he was growing up.

This neighbor disappeared when he was about 10 years old.

He relied on stories from his own family to kind of piece a few things together, and

he called in with this tip.

The neighbor he named was Deanna Patnode from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, which is a

southern suburb of St. Paul.

BCA Assistant Superintendent Dave Bierga said one of their agents, quote, took this thing

and ran with it, end quote.

In December of 2008, investigators were able to track down a woman named Chloe Hughesby,

Deanna’s older sister.

Chloe confirmed what the neighbor said, that her sister Deanna was missing.

They’d never filed the missing persons report, but they hadn’t seen or heard from her since

the early 80s.

There were records that the family had called police to say that they hadn’t seen Deanna,

but they never filed an official report, which is why it was so hard to identify her remains.

I know her family cared, and I know there’s still family around, but I have a hard time

wrapping my head around, if you called the police one time, then why wouldn’t you follow up?

And maybe they said, we’ll call back if she don’t show up in two days, and that was just,

that was it.

That she went on vacation and she never came back.

As frustrating as it is, Detective Warren told us this isn’t an uncommon thing to see

in cases from decades ago.

Things back then happened like that, where sometimes maybe the family didn’t have trust

in law enforcement.

Maybe they called them and said they were good, and nothing ever was reported.

I can’t say that for a fact, I can’t blame anybody or point fingers, but to me, by reading

what I read, it sounds like maybe they didn’t think she’d be found, or she was just common

to have her leave for a day or two, and that I don’t know, but I’m just speculating.

But a lot of times that happens, and she was never seen again, and there was never, ever

a missing persons report made on her.

And again, times have changed, and we’re not talking about a 12-year-old, we’re talking

about an adult, and a lot of times back then they’d say, well, she’s an adult, she can

go where she wants.

And missing persons were taken differently than they are today.

Reported or not, Deanna’s family had felt the hole that her absence left in their family.

Chloe said she was dumbfounded and amazed when she got a call that her sister had possibly

been found.

It renewed a hope that she and her family had let go of long, long ago.

Now she was out of state by then, living in Iowa, but she was able to provide DNA for


It’s worth noting that in the press conference held by the BCA and the DOC, Chloe pronounced

her sister’s name as Deanna, and unfortunately, we were unable to get a hold of her for an

interview, so for consistency’s sake, we’re pronouncing her name Deanna, which is how

detectives pronounce it.

Anyways, even before the results of the test came back, investigators were pretty convinced

that Deanna was indeed their Jane Doe.

Remember how I said that police initially thought the woman had been hit by a car or

in some kind of accident because she had some pretty severe injuries?

Well, investigators learned that Deanna had gotten badly hurt just a few months before

she vanished.

She jumped out of the back of a pickup, and no one knows why she jumped, but she jumped

out of a moving vehicle on a gravel road, and that caused a severe upper right arm fracture

and also an injury to her right hip.

Deanna’s injuries perfectly matched up with what the coroner back in 1989 concluded from

the remains.

Just a few weeks after Chloe gave her DNA, everyone’s suspicions were confirmed.

The test concluded, beyond all medical certainty, that the remains were Deanna Pattenoad.

As part of that process, another autopsy was completed, and this time, drawing from

his findings and the new information that they’d learned, the medical examiner ruled

that Deanna’s manner of death was homicide.

During the press conference held by the BCA and the DOC, Chloe described the mixed emotions

that came with the DNA match.

Grief for her sister’s death, but at the same time, relief for finally having answers

after all of these years.

She said, quote,

“‘We just never thought that we’d hear anything, and this is just phenomenal.

We’re so thankful that she got to be one of the playing cards because she wouldn’t

be identified.

I know that.

I mean, I didn’t give up.

I always expected her to walk through the door too, but no, it’s Deanna,’ end quote.

Investigators were also glad to finally have a name for their Jane Doe and a level of closure

for Deanna’s family.

This was just the beginning of a brand new investigation.

How did she end up there and who killed her?

There was a problem.

Because she was never reported missing, that meant there wasn’t another investigative

file out there that Detective Warren could piece together with his own.

He’d have to start from scratch, tracking the moments of someone who went missing 27

years before, which proved to be difficult because that meant that they’d have to rely

on the memories of her friends and family from nearly three decades ago to piece together

a timeline of her last known movements.

Based on everyone’s recollection, the last time Deanna was seen was on October 26, 1982.

She was out for a night with friends at the Buck Board Bar on Concord Boulevard in South

St. Paul, which is roughly 80 miles away from where she was found in Wapishaw County.

Friends who were with her at the bar that night recalled that at some point they saw

her leaving with someone else.

Now at first it was reported that she was seen leaving with a friend, but later that

was changed to her seen leaving with an unknown man.

Now because this happened nearly 30 years prior, the friends couldn’t recall what the

man even looked like.

Like no guess at height, build, hair color, age, none of that.

Which I mean that was at least something because it probably meant this guy wasn’t someone

her friends knew, so he likely wasn’t a close friend of Deanna’s and probably wasn’t

someone who went to that bar a lot.

The friends also weren’t able to provide a vehicle description, but it’s not super

clear if they even saw her get into a car with this mystery man at all.

I mean it’s very possible that she just walked out of the bar with the man and then

they went their separate ways.

South St. Paul is only a few miles from Inver Grove Heights, so maybe she tried to walk

home and got abducted on the way.

Or maybe she tried to hitchhike, which investigators learned she wasn’t against doing.

If that was the case, maybe she got picked up by a shady character along the way.

Regardless, it seemed like the last person who saw Deanna would have been this man that

she was seen leaving with.

It would have been great to track him down, but with literally no physical description

to go from, this task was impossible.

So they had to keep moving in directions that actually let them press forward.

Detectives learned more about Deanna, and they confirmed that she had no ties whatsoever

to the Wabasha County area where she was found.

Which meant it was unlikely that she just happened to be in that area and ran into someone.

She was taken there.

Detectives continued trying to track down people who may have been with or seen Deanna

the night she disappeared from the Buck Board Bar.

But the investigation eventually came to a screeching halt.

And that’s where things were when our reporting team went to Minnesota in September to interview

Warren, who is now the Chief Deputy at the Sheriff’s Office.

But then, in January of this year, literally after this episode was written, our reporter

got a call from Warren.

He said that he was going through the case file again when he found something interesting

that he hadn’t come across before.

Right around the time detectives were diving deep into Deanna’s life in 2009, the Sheriff’s

Office got a call from someone that we’ve been asked to not identify.

And this person said that their relative lived in the same neighborhood as Deanna when she


Who’s the relative they’re referring to?

Donald Blum.

That name might ring a bell for some of you, because in 2000, Blum was arrested for the

1999 kidnapping and murder of 19-year-old Katie Poyer in Northeastern Minnesota.

He abducted her while she was working the night shift alone at a convenience store,

and her remains were found on his property a few weeks later.

In addition to the Poyer murder, Blum was involved in five other cases of kidnapping

and or sexual assault.

From what Warren can tell, back then, the Sheriff wrote to him in the out-of-state prison

where he was serving his time.

Blum never responded, though, and investigators had nothing on him other than that statement

from the relative.

So they kind of just left it alone, and it faded from everyone’s memory.

But with where they were now, Chief Deputy Warren felt like every dead end was worth


So he decided to do some digging.

He found that Blum was no longer being held in that out-of-state prison, which was in


He had recently been moved to a prison right there in Minnesota, which meant it’d be much

more feasible to go in person and talk with him.

Chief Deputy Warren also discovered that Blum might have been familiar with Highway 61,

where Deanna’s body was found.

So he was having a good feeling about this.

After all of these years, maybe the answer was right in front of them all along.

So he jumped right into action, wanting to interview him sooner rather than later.

We actually held off on releasing this episode so we could let you all know how that interview


But, of course, it wasn’t that easy.

That first call from Warren came to us on January 3rd.

He said that he planned to talk with Blum in just a couple of weeks.

But then we got another call on January 10th, literal days before Warren planned to meet

with him, Blum died in prison.

A DOC spokesperson said that his death was expected and due to illness.

Now, when I heard the news of Blum’s death, my jaw dropped.

And I can only imagine how Chief Deputy Warren was feeling, having been that close to speaking

with one of the only potential persons of interest in a decades-old case, only for him

to die days before he was going to speak with him.

It’s unbelievable.

This is the prime example, though, of everything the deck is about.

We’re lifting off these old cases, getting new eyes and ears on them while we can, because

time is precious.

We’re losing witnesses, persons of interest, people with information every single day.

And it’s important that we talk about these cases now while we still have time.

Now though Blum is dead, Warren says he’s not letting the lead die with him.

There are other avenues that he’ll be chasing down in the near future, such as interviewing

those who knew Blum in hopes of getting answers.

Whether it’s this lead that solves the case or one that comes years down the road,

Warren told our reporting team that he’s hoping this case won’t be cold for much longer.

And he’s glad that he picked up that cardboard box all those years ago.

You ask me why I wanted to work on it, well, nothing’s going to get solved unless you

don’t work on it, right?

So you got to imagine when you go to work on something and you got, let’s say, other

people in your profession and even outside people saying, well, what are you, some guru?

I’m like, no, it’s not going to get solved unless you work on it.

And then it turns out, well, you got lucky.

Yeah, we did get lucky, but guess what?

We got lucky because we worked on it.

I’m an optimist.

And anything could bust at any time if you just work on it, right?

So I’m not feeling like confident.

I’m very hopeful that every swing we take, it connects to something and it won’t connect

with nothing if we don’t try and go up there and find out, right?

So I guess I’m instead of confident, I’m just hopeful that it’s going to get solved, not

just because of this tip, but because of, I don’t know, continuing to work on it.

We asked Chief Deputy Warren and Sheriff Barge what they think happened to Deanna back in


Well, no doubt we think she got into a vehicle with someone.

There is no idea or no evidence to conclude that there was any type of assault on her

sexually or not, but we assume that an altercation occurred somewhere there or on the way down

here on Highway 61 where she ended up in our county.

But outside of that, we just have, we have no idea how to put it together.

She could have had an altercation with somebody.

She could have been, for all we know, she could have been stabbed.

We know she wasn’t shot.

She could have been strangled.

She could have hit her head on a curb and died, maybe intoxicated and the person freaked

out, but that’s a long ways to bring a body.

Something tells me that the person that did this knew the area of Highway 61 well enough

to come down here and possibly leave her on the way to maybe a different state.

Sheriff Barge said the fact that the two crime scenes are nearly 80 miles apart has complicated

the investigation.

I think one of the issues here is location.

That while her body was placed here in the woods, we don’t think the crime happened here.

I think the crime happened someplace else and then she was placed here, either by a

trucker or somebody that was just driving, needed to drive through this area, knew that

area. So there wasn’t a lot of tips that came in, I think, and that was probably location

was more than anything in regards to, to tips.

Although Deanna’s loved ones have gotten the closure of finding her and knowing she’s

not missing anymore, Sheriff Barge says he hopes this isn’t the only closure they get.

First and foremost, we’ll be thinking about the Pattenwood family and then her close friends

as well to put some closure on it for them, because I know this isn’t closed for them.

I know that they think about it every day in regards to what happened to her.

I know they’re grateful that she was identified so that they could put her remains to rest.

But the other part of this would be so concerning for them as it would any of us if her

family members had had something like this happen to them.

And it was never determined how or who did it, because that closure always or sometimes

comes with somebody being held accountable for their actions.

And we’re certainly hopeful and hoping for that outcome in this case.

Chief Deputy Warren said that he knows people out there have the answers he’s looking for,

and he hopes that those people are listening to this podcast.

He said no bit of information is too small because it could be the missing piece of the puzzle.

Just anything they knew about that evening, anything they knew, if they had a description

of a vehicle that she would have gotten in or the guy that she was with, if they were

in the bar and didn’t see her, but they knew for their friends that they were with that

evening, that we could have other people to talk to.

So just anything about that night and anything about that bar, including if they knew of

people that went into that bar that they might question from time to time in regards to who

they were and if they felt uneasy about this person being in the bar or if he looked at

females a different way.

Anything like that could be very helpful today.

If you know anything about the murder of Deanna Patnode, or if you were at the Buckford Bar

on Concord Boulevard in South St. Paul on October 26, 1982, and you remember seeing

Deanna that night, please call the Wabasha County Sheriff’s Office at 651-565-3361

and ask for Chief Deputy Warren.

The Deck is an AudioChuck production with theme music by Ryan Lewis.

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