Rural Minnesota farm slaying of Karla Jo Nieland stays unsolved – InForum

HOFFMAN, Minn. — The 1981 slaying of Hoffman Excessive College senior Karla Jo Nieland despatched shock waves all through the small Minnesota farming group — the results of that are nonetheless being felt at this time.

At round 3:30 a.m. Could 17, 1981, Nieland was discovered crushed to dying inside a automobile belonging to her then-boyfriend, John Maintain. Maintain was arrested and charged with second- and third-degree homicide associated to her dying.

Karla Jo Nieland

Karla Jo Nieland’s physique was found by regulation enforcement Could 17, 1981 in her boyfriend’s automobile in Hoffman, Minnesota. Costs have been filed for second- and third-degree homicide in opposition to her boyfriend, John Maintain — a jury discovered him not responsible. The case associated to her dying continues to be open.

Photograph courtesy of

On Could 26, 1982, Maintain was acquitted by a jury of 11 ladies and one man. It was a choice that surprised locals, together with Nieland’s relations, who have been beneath the impression the trial can be an open-and-shut case.

Greater than 40 years later, the case technically stays an open investigation.

“There are not any suspects being checked out proper now. Clearly the case hasn’t been closed, however I can’t essentially say it’s open both,” Grant County Sheriff Mark Haberer stated. “The case has been sitting by means of three or 4 totally different sheriffs proper now and, to my information, no person else has executed something extra to this case for the reason that suspect, or the defendant, was discovered not responsible,” Herberer stated.

The acquittal left a gaping gap of injustice for native residents, who’ve spent the final 4 many years debating who’s guilty for Nieland’s dying.

“It’s definitely potential that the one that dedicated that homicide has been acquitted of that homicide,” Grant County Lawyer Justin Anderson stated.

Hypothesis over what actually occurred the night time of Nieland’s dying grew when the courtroom information related to the homicide trial have been sealed — an motion that was taken inside the previous couple of years by Decide Amy Doll. Doll was appointed to the Eighth Judicial District in 2016.

Discussion board Information Service has filed for entry to the sealed report. On the time this story printed, entry had not been granted.

The night time Karla Jo Nieland died

Could 16, 1981 was a Saturday — the scholars of Hoffman Excessive College have been planning a celebration at a farm on the outskirts of city.

Karla Jo Nieland slaying

Karla Jo Nieland, an 18-year-old highschool senior, was discovered crushed to dying in her boyfriend’s automobile in 1981 on a farm in rural Hoffman, Minnesota.

Photograph courtesy of Google Maps.

A 12 months previous to the occasion, Kensington and Hoffman faculties merged, making a tense state of affairs for a lot of college students who started attending class alongside their crosstown rivals.

Whereas reluctant to attend the occasion, Nieland did finally present as much as the out of doors gathering. Witnesses within the 1982 courtroom case testified that Maintain had already begun ingesting, consuming at the very least six beers earlier than Nieland’s arrival, based on a 1982 article within the Star Tribune.

Witnesses additionally stated the 2 had an argument, prompting Nieland to stroll away from the gathering whereas Maintain continued to eat alcohol, based on the article.

One witness, Roland “Rocky” Fiebranz, testified that Nieland was seen after the combat in an space between two outbuildings on the farm property — he claimed he noticed her simply earlier than everybody — besides Nieland and Maintain — left the occasion grounds, the 1982 article reported. Maintain denied seeing Nieland once more on the occasion. As an alternative, he claimed he was hit over the top and woke as much as discover Nieland’s physique in his automobile.

Fiebranz’s sister, Jackie Hermel, testified that Maintain stormed into her house — positioned on the farm property — within the early hours of Could 17, 1981, frantically confessed to killing Nieland after which took off in Fiebranz’s automobile, earlier than returning — then, Hermel stated, Fiebranz hit Maintain for stealing his automobile, based on the 1982 Star Tribune article.

A lady who answered the telephone at Fiebranz’s residence advised Discussion board Information Service he didn’t want to remark.

Testimony from investigators indicated Nieland was severely crushed and strangled. Regulation enforcement arrived on the farm round 3:30 a.m. — there, they found Nieland’s physique inside Maintain’s automobile, based on the Related Press.

Nieland’s shirt, sweater and bra have been found in a discipline on the farm’s property, close to the situation the place Maintain’s shirt and automobile keys have been found, based on the 1982 article.

Maintain was charged with second- and third-degree homicide days later, based on the Grant County Herald.

Maintain was simply 17 years outdated on the time of Nieland’s dying. It was determined by a juvenile courtroom choose in June 1981 that Maintain can be charged as an grownup — a choice Maintain and his attorneys appealed all the best way to the Supreme Courtroom, the place it was affirmed, based on the Grant County Herald.

The trial started on Could 19, 1982. Seven days later, after only a few hours of deliberation by the jury, Maintain was acquitted.

Maintain’s legal professional, Joseph Friedberg, solid doubt on key claims made by the prosecution, together with the time of dying. Friedberg insinuated Nieland’s dying might have occurred throughout a portion of the night when Maintain was ingesting beer with associates on the occasion, based on the Star Tribune article. Friedberg additionally solid doubt on the prosecution’s reliance on the testimonies of Fiebranz and Hermel.

John Keep

John Maintain was discovered not responsible by a Grant County jury in 1982 on second- and third-degree homicide prices associated to the dying of Karla Jo Nieland. The investigation associated to her dying continues to be open. Photograph courtesy of

The prosecuting legal professional, Jon Stafsholt, expressed shock following the decision. In a 1982 interview, Stafsholt stated he wouldn’t have executed something in a different way, casting doubt on the jury. A voicemail message left for Stafsholt by Discussion board Information Service was not returned.

The acquittal left native regulation enforcement in a tough state of affairs. Whereas initially assured of their arrest, the decision despatched them again to the drafting board. They’ve been there ever since.

Because the acquittal in 1982, the communities of Hoffman and Kennsington have been embroiled in a feud over what occurred the night time of Nieland’s dying. There are those that, regardless of the decision, imagine Maintain is guilty. And there are those that imagine regulation enforcement by no means arrested the correct man.

The sealing of courtroom information related to the 1982 homicide trial leaves Grant County residents with out a possibility to assessment paperwork associated to public testimony of the trial.

Courtroom information can be found to the general public, until they embody confidential data. Home violence instances, juvenile proceedings and custody-related information are stored confidential by the courts, to call just a few.

In an effort to request that courtroom paperwork be sealed, an applicant should full expungement types for every case they want to seal, together with for prices by which they weren’t convicted.

Within the utility, the petitioner should point out a authorized cause to seal the report. Candidates are given 4 authorized justifications for expungement. A type of choices applies to Maintain — the felony matter was resolved in his favor.

Candidates are additionally inspired to elucidate how sealing the report might enhance their life and probably profit their household.

When submitted, the choose “should weigh the disadvantages for the group in case your case is expunged in opposition to the advantages you’ll get from the expungement,” based on the Minnesota Judicial Department.

Anderson stated the request to seal the report didn’t land on his desk, indicating that he was not accustomed to the request or who filed the request.

A Minnesota Judicial Department case information search didn’t reveal any data associated to the costs in opposition to Maintain.

Messages left on Maintain’s voicemail by Discussion board Information Providers weren’t returned.