Man Charged With Murder Of Missing Vadnais Heights Woman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Vadnais Heights woman is still missing, but a Lakeville man has been charged with her death.

Timothy James Barr, 51, was charged Thursday with two counts of 2nd-degree murder without intent while committing a felony, and one count of criminal vehicular homicide, according to the Ramsey County Attorney’s office.

Investigators believe Barr killed 45-year-old Michelle Lee Newell sometime on or after Aug. 29. Her family reported her missing on Sept. 8.

The criminal complaint says one of Newell’s family members told police they saw her before in Barr’s company. Newell’s cellphone records showed she called Barr on the night of Aug. 28. Her phone was traced to St. Cloud the next evening, and stopped functioning soon after. Police searched her apartment, which did not show any signs of her packing for a trip.

Phone records showed Barr texted with Newell on Aug. 29 about going to a place 4.5 hours away. His phone was in North Dakota that same evening.

Police talked with Barr in Wheaton, North Dakota two days later – the same day deputies were called to a property after someone claimed they had talked with Barr when his vehicle had broken down. The property owner said Barr told him not to call police because he would “go to prison for the rest of his life.”

Michelle Newell (credit: Ramsey County Sheriff's Office)

Michelle Newell (credit: Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office)

St. Paul police talked with Barr on Sept. 5 after someone called 911 to report a man parked on the street, cleaning his trunk with bleach.

A police informant told investigators that they talked to Barr at a West St. Paul residence on Sept. 16, where Barr was cleaning his car, taking out parts of his trunk and hosing it down. The informant said Barr told them he drove a woman up north to a tree farm where he hid drugs. Barr allegedly said he had been using meth and thought the woman stole some of his drugs. He got angry, and the woman hid under his car. Barr allegedly told the informant he drove off in the car, accidently killing the woman.

The complaint says another informant told police he talked with Barr on Sept. 17, and admitted to killing a woman who stole a pound of meth from him. Barr allegedly dragged the woman into the woods to find the stolen drugs, but she escaped and hid under his car. Barr again claimed to have accidentally driven over her and killed her. The informant said Barr told them he put her body in his trunk, and was even pulled over by police while she was inside.

Police found Barr in St. Paul on Sept. 19, but he was able to flee from them in his car, which was found abandoned in a nearby neighborhood. The car is being processed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

A third informant told police on Sept. 20 that Barr came to his St. Paul residence and said he was in “big trouble,” and was “never getting out this time.” Barr allegedly told the informant about the previous day’s police chase, and how he accidentally ran over a woman in South Dakota after she hid under his car while trying to avoid his sexual advances. Barr and the woman were there to sell a half pound of meth to people she knew. The informant said Barr hid the woman’s body in South Dakota.

Police located and arrested Barr on Sept. 20. Investigators say he has not cooperated with authorities. Barr has 10 felony convictions in the past, most involving drugs. He is on conditional release in the lead-up to a trial for domestic assault by strangulation in Dakota County.

Newell’s body and the crime scene have not been located. Barr could face up to 90 years in prison if convicted.

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