MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office is re-opening a 15-year-old case involving the disappearance of a White Bear township stepmother of three, back in April of 1997.
The agency teamed up with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to execute a search warrant Wednesday at 1785 Stillwater St., where Toni Ann Bachman lived with her husband, Norman Bachman, when she disappeared.
Back then, investigators said Bachman was at home on her computer on April 25, 1997, when she emailed a friend saying her Norman was on his way home to continue an argument from earlier that day.
No one heard from her again.
Crime team crews went back to the home for the third time since then, excavating and examining a sand pit in the backyard, while digging out a drain and pipes from the basement.
The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Randy Gustafson said several area police departments teamed up with Crimestoppers to solve cold cases. In late March, they asked for tips on Toni’s disappearance and a new lead brought them back to her home. The agency won’t specify any details, but Gustafson said crews returned with ground penetrating x-ray radar.
The technology wasn’t available 15 years ago, but today it could pinpoint bone fragments.
“Death is something we don’t take lightly and we would like to know what happened to Toni,” Gustafson said. “Her parents have deceased since the time this happened, and it’s an emotional thing. It would be nice to bring some closure for the rest of her family.”
Back then, her husband Norman was the focus of the investigation, but officers said they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him with her disappearance or presumed death.
The backyard mess is a welcome sight for Jim Muellner, who lived next door to Toni when she disappeared in April of 1997. Today, he owns the home. He brought WCCO into the basement where the crime team dug up pipes and a drain.
“I wanted to help out any way I could,” he said. “That’s what I told the officers that were here.”
Two years ago, he turned the rundown rental property into a bike charity for kids, but has never forgotten Toni.
“They were x-raying it all and they nit-picked every little twig that was here to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong,” Muellner said.
Through new eyes, neighbors hope evidence proves what they’ve long believed — that Toni’s life came to a violent and undeserving end.
“We would like to see this solved,” Muellner said.
In November of 1998, Norman Bachman served seven years in prison, for raping and torturing a girlfriend in the same home.
Investigators tell us he’s now living in Anoka County, and still won’t cooperate.
He has never talked about Toni’s disappearance, or the blood stains found in his basement at that time.
Gustafson said evidence gathered in this search warrant has to be processed in a lab, which could take up to six weeks.
He said Toni’s three stepchildren, who are now grown, are also being interviewed.
The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office is still looking for more tips from the public.