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Cold Case Revisited: Mystery Surrounds 2 Susans

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By Caroline Lowe, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As Caroline Lowe prepares to start a new adventure at KSBY in California, she’s spending the next couple of weeks revisiting cold cases she’s profiled over the past several decades as a crime reporter for WCCO.

Lowe keeps a wall of photos of the victims next to her desk so she’ll never forget them. When she clears out her desk for the last time, Lowe said she’ll put the photos in an album to take with her to California.

Many of the victims’ relatives have contacted her in recent days and before she departs, Lowe will be sharing their stories.

Two young women, both named Susan, were in St. Paul on the same day in May, two years apart. The similarities prompted police to wonder if there was a serial killer targeting victims named Susan.

The killings even inspired a crime novel called “Stalking Susan” by former WCCO investigative producer Julie Kramer.

The first murder happened in 1983. On May 16 of that year, 28-year-old Susan Petersen was last seen in the University Avenue neighborhood, wearing a trench coat. The next day, she was strangled and sexually assaulted in an alley near Mississippi River Boulevard in Highland Park.

Two years later, on the exact same date, 16-year-old Susan Rheineck was found tied to a tree a few blocks away. She was also strangled, sexually assaulted and wore a similar coat.

Police feared there was a serial killer targeting women named Susan. For the next several years, on May 16 and 17, police staked out University Avenue, preparing for a killer to strike again.

The two killings were still unsolved when the St. Paul Police Department created a cold case team almost three years ago. That’s when investigators took a fresh look at the “Susans” evidence. They were surprised when DNA tests showed the women were not killed by the same person.

“I think a lot of people wanted them to be connection … but the DNA is proof they are not connected. At least at this point we believe there are two different people out there who committed these crimes,” said Sgt. Anita Muldoon who is in charge of the cold case investigations.

The DNA from the cases is now in a national law enforcement data base of criminals’ DNA. So far, there have been no matches to the persons who killed the two Susans in St. Paul.

But Muldoon has a message for the victims’ families.

“I really believe that the families should never give up hope. We’re still working on all of these cases,” she said.

Anyone with information on the murders should call Sgt. Muldoon at 651-266-5650.  

Caroline Lowe’s Original Report

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