Body found near burning vehicle in Cottonwood County
WINDOM -- A 911 call to report a vehicle on fire resulted in the discovery of a dead body Monday, according to a news release from the Cottonwood County Attorney's Office.
The body of Alberto Samilpa Jr., 20, of Watonwan County, was located next to a burning vehicle in the early morning hours Monday on Cottonwood County 3, just east of U.S. 71.
A family traveling to northern Minnesota saw the vehicle in Cottonwood County and called 911 to report the fire. Windom police officers and the Windom Fire Department had arrived at the scene when one of the officers observed the partially burned body lying outside the vehicle.
When officers determined the individual was deceased, Cottonwood County Sheriff Jason Purrington was called to take charge of the scene.
He contacted the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to request their involvement. The body has been transported to Ramsey County for an autopsy. No cause of death has been reported at this time.
The vehicle involved had been reported stolen from a residence in Mankato on Saturday, along with another vehicle. The Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office responded to a burglary call shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday on Lime Valley Road near Mankato.
The residents of the home told authorities they had returned home to find a 1999 Porsche 911 and a 2000 Lincoln Navigator had been stolen from their home, as well as at least 15 long guns, computers, jewelry and cash.
The second vehicle was discovered in rural Watonwan County at 5:17 a.m. Monday -- about four hours after the first vehicle was reported -- and had also been set on fire.
"The fire call came in, and the officer got out and saw the style of the vehicle and pretty much knew what he had," said Watonwan County Sheriff Gary Menssen. "He knew what the vehicle was after hearing Cottonwood County (radio) traffic that night and knowing what was going on."
Because the officer was aware of the situation, he immediately cordoned off the area to preserve evidence and did not allow the fire department access. By then, the vehicle fire had almost burned out.
The BCA stopped in Watonwan County on its way to Cottonwood County and asked local authorities to keep everyone away from the scene. It returned to Watonwan County to thoroughly investigate the scene later that afternoon.
Samilpa was scheduled to go to trial in December in Nicollet County on charges of third- and fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct. The same day his name was released as the victim in the vehicle fire, subpoenas were sent to eight people who were to serve as witnesses in the case against him.
On Oct. 15, 2006, an 18-year-old female was brought to a hospital in New Ulm by a friend. She told authorities a person she knew as Alberto had raped her at a party earlier that evening after maneuvering her into his vehicle while she was intoxicated.
She later identified Samilpa from a photo in the Madelia High School yearbook. She had described her assailant that evening as a Hispanic male, 275 to 300 pounds, 5 foot 9 inches tall and heavyset.
Samilpa posted a bond of $25,000 later that month, with an additional $5,000 bond posted in November 2006. The three-day trial was set to begin Dec. 19.
Samilpa was convicted of a gross misdemeanor theft charge in Watonwan County in June.