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Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom talks about the Anarae Schunk murder investigation. Shavelle Chavez-Nelson and Ashley Conrade have been charged with second-degree intentional murder. Backstrom plans to convene a grand jury to consider first degree murder charges.

Charges pressed in Anarae Schunk murder

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For months, investigators have gathered evidence in the murder of Anarae Schunk. While they haven’t been able to come up with a motive, they have strong evidence to suggest Shavelle Chavez-Nelson and Ashley Conrade killed the 20-year-old University of Minnesota student in the early morning hours of Sept. 22.

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Nine months after the grisly murder, Chavez-Nelson, of Burnsville, and Conrade, of Rosemount, were charged with second-degree intentional murder.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said the investigation into Schunk’s murder was one of the most extensive to occur in the Dakota County.

“This has not been an easy case,” said Backstrom.

Backstrom said a grand jury will be convened soon to consider first-degree murder charges. A first-degree murder conviction would mean a mandatory life sentence.

“Anarae Schunk was a lovely, intelligent and kindhearted young woman who will always be remembered and deeply missed by many,” said Backstrom.

During her June 27th hearing, bail was set for Conrade at $2 million, or $750,000 with conditions. Currently, he is in prison for an unrelated conviction with no chance at bail.

Chavez-Nelson has a long history of violent crimes. Conrade has no previous criminal history.

September

After a nine day search, Schunk’s naked body was found riddled with stab wounds Sept. 30 in rural Rice County. Schunk was last seen with Chavez-Nelson, a former boyfriend, and his current girlfriend Conrade at Nina’s Grill in Burnsville.

Schunk went to Nina’s Grill with Chavez-Nelson and Conrade. Backstrom said Schunk had loaned Chavez-Nelson money and that she may have been trying to get the money back.

While at Nina’s, Chavez-Nelson got into a verbal confrontation with Palagor Jobi. Jobi was shot and killed in the parking lot of the bar. Video and eye witnesses identified Chavez-Nelson as the shooter. Chavez-Nelson has been charged with Jobi’s death and is awaiting trial.  Conrade has been charged with a aiding an offender in the Jobi case.

After the shooting Chavez-Nelson, Conrade and Schunk left the bar together. Schunk was last seen alive by a neighbor of Conrade’s.

Police have concluded that Schunk was killed between the hours of 3:30 and 4:30 a.m.in Conrade’s Rosemount townhouse.

At the townhouse, investigators found evidence including a bloodstained quilt and a plastic tub containing blood in rafters of Conrade’s garage.

Backstrom said evidence suggests that Schunk was stabbed multiple times during a violent conflict. Wounds on Schunk’s body suggest she tried to defend herself.

“She fought for her life,” said Backstrom.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner determined that wounds to Schunk’s neck caused her death. In all, Schunk suffered 22 stab wounds including two to her neck that severed both internal carotoid arteries, both internal jugular veins and hypopharynx.

Backstrom said Schunk’s clothes were cut off her body after her death. She was covered in a quilt and then placed in the plastic tub.

Schunk’s body was found in a ditch near Lonsdale. Backstrom said charred corn stalks on her body suggested, there was an attempt to burn the body.

Items with blood including plastic bags, Schunk’s clothing and a hacksaw were found in Conrade’s townhouse.

Additional bloody items including a knife were seized at the St. Paul home of Chavez-Nelson’s estranged wife. Backstrom said cell phone information showed that Chavez-Nelson was in the area on Sept. 23.

Surveillance videos from Wal-Mart show Chavez-Nelson and Conrade purchasing the plastic bags and bleach. Backstrom said the bleach was used to clean up blood from inside Conrade’s kitchen.

In the days following Schunk’s disappearance, Backstrom said Conrade and Chavez-Nelson were interviewed a number of times by various law enforcement agencies. Both initially denied any knowledge of what happened to Schunk.

Over the course of those interviews, Conrade’s story changed numerous times though. Backstrom said when confronted with the blood evidence on Sept. 29, Conrade admitted she had seen Schunk’s body in her kitchen and helped dispose of the body.

Backstrom said Chavez-Nelson has barely commented to investigators except to say he didn’t do it.

Investigators and co-workers noted that Conrade had several wounds on her arms and hands. A blood stain collected from the kitchen floor was determined to be Conrade’s in addition to others that were determined to be Schunk’s blood.

While no motive has been offered, Backstrom said none is needed to gain conviction. He said it’s clear that Schunk senselessly lost her life and his department plans to seek justice for her family.

Former Rosemount police chief Eric Werner said this case weighed on investigators and they’ve put a lot of hard work into it.

Backstrom said the family will not comment as criminal proceedings move forward.

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Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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