Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A new tip has led police to reopen one of the Twin Cities’ most notorious unsolved murder cases: Anne Barber Dunlap, who was a successful young executive at Pillsbury found murdered in the trunk of her car at a Kmart parking lot in 1996.
For years, Minneapolis Police called her husband their only suspect. He has always maintained his innocence, and Dunlap’s parents say they believe him.
On New Year’s Day, as Brad Dunlap’s friends searched for Anne, he told reporters, “We were supposed to meet at 4:30 that night to go out to dinner. She never showed up.”
She had been missing for two days. The couple was living with Anne’s parents.
Police say it was Brad who told the search party to go to the Kmart parking lot on Lake Street in South Minneapolis, where they found Anne Dunlap’s car with the keys in the ignition.
“It’s strange because the keys are in it, I don’t know what that means but I am just real hopeful that there is something in the car — maybe fingerprints or a clue. … We are grasping at straws at this point. We can only hope and pray at this point,” Brad said to reporters as he stood in front of the car that had just been found and as a bloodhound circled the car. “We are as happily married as people could be. We are in the process of building a home right now in Medina. It’s our dream house. We are planning a family.”
A few hours later, police towed the car to their forensics garage at the Minneapolis impound lot. They found Anne’s body inside the trunk. She had been stabbed multiple times around the head and neck, but there was no sign of a struggle.
Police brought Brad in for questioning. He told Anne’s parents Louise and Donn Barber what happened next.
“They told him she had died, he was in total shock he was all alone,” Louise said. “They left and watched him through the mirror, and then they came back and said, ‘We think we know who did it: you killed her.’”
In their first interview in years, Anne’s parents told WCCO the lead investigator alienated them from the start. Donn said the investigator told him, “Don’t you talk to me about police procedure.”
“Here it was 15 minutes after we found out that she was dead, we got no compassion. We got confrontation. That really hurt,” Donn said.
The Barbers remain convinced of Brad’s innocence.
“He was more broken up than we were, if you can believe that,” Donn said.
Anne’s $10,000 wedding ring and purse have never been found, but the Barbers say police didn’t pursue robbery leads.
“They weren’t trying to find out who did it. They were trying to frame him,” Donn said.
Anne’s parents also don’t buy the police theory that the insurance money which Brad Dunlap eventually collected an undisclosed portion of after filing a lawsuit was a motive. Brad, an insurance agent who was working at a graphics company, had recently increased his own life insurance policy to $1 million and had taken out a million-dollar policy on his wife, who had an additional $800,000 policy through her job.
Anne’s parents say the couple was merely planning ahead.
“If you’ve got two or three kids and you want to pay off the mortgage, that is what it takes,” Donn said.
Brad told police he last saw Anne at 2:30 when she left her parents’ home in south Minneapolis to go shopping, most likely at the Mall of America. Based on her stomach contents, the medical examiner ruled Anne died about an hour later at 3:30. Brad made his first 911 call at 9 p.m.
For the first time, police have released the calls.
The first call starts, “911? Hi, I was hoping you could tell me the procedure of who I might call. My wife left to go shopping about seven hours ago and I have not heard from her since, and I was expecting her back a long time ago.”
The next call came at 7:30 the next morning. Dunlap made two more calls to police precincts that day and was told he would have to wait 48 hours to file a missing persons report.
In 2005, Minneapolis Police homicide commander Lee Edwards said, “We are still looking at him (Brad) as the only suspect.” The current head of homicide sees it differently.
Lt. Richard Zimmerman said,
“We are coming in with a fresh approach, with open minds,” Lt. Richard Zimmerman said. “We don’t have any preconceived ideas who may have done this murder.”
Zimmerman has reassigned the Dunlap case because of a tip that came in just months ago.
“We wish the caller had called us back in 1995 or 1996, but for some reason they didn’t,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman would only say the new tip involves a conversation Brad had years before the murder. His investigators will be retesting evidence using new DNA tools.
“I told them to start at page one,” Zimmerman said.
Brad Dunlap is remarried and living with his wife and two children in Scottsdale, Ariz. He declined WCCO’s request for an interview through his attorney. Anne’s parents go down to visit him every year.
If you have any information about this case: Please call police at 612-692-TIPS.