MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Twin Cities man is charged with murder in the unsolved disappearance of his wife nearly 20 years ago.

Toni Bachman vanished in 1997, and investigators have considered her husband, Norman, a suspect from the start.

They’ve searched the couple’s former house in White Bear Township several times, including just three years ago.

But Toni Bachman’s body has never been found, and it was unclear if her family would ever have justice until officers arrested her husband Tuesday night. He was in court on Wednesday.

Surprisingly, there is no newly discovered evidence mentioned in the criminal complaint (viewable here), but what is clear is that prosecutors have a large amount of incriminating circumstantial evidence.

In the spring of 1997, the Bachmans’ marriage was falling apart. Toni was having an online relationship with another man, and she had told Norman she wanted a divorce.

The initial search of the home 18 years ago found blood stains scattered around the basement, as well as fragments of muscle and fat tissue. The samples matched Toni’s DNA profile.

Norman always denied his involvement, and while the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office considered filing charges before, they decided they did not have enough evidence.

Investigators reopened the case in 2012.

“This is not an easy case,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said. “However, we believe we can prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The complaint quotes one of Norman’s sons as saying that his father once confessed to murdering his mother but that no one would be able to prove it.

Toni’s brother Tim Reineccius was in court for his former brother-in-law’s brief appearance Wednesday.

“There have been some long days, some hard days,” he said. “Hopefully, this is the next step in the progression to finality.”

Reineccius said he always suspected Norman and that seeing him in custody is satisfying, but it is difficult not to know how his sister died.

“I know where my father’s buried, I know where my mother’s remains are,” he said. “I know where Toni’s unborn son’s remains are. I need the rest.”

The year after Toni disappeared, Bachman pleaded guilty to raping a girlfriend and served five years in prison.

He’s back in jail now in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Years Of Evidence

Choi, the Ramsey County Attorney, didn’t specify why he was trying the case now, despite a lack of new evidence. He responded to reporters’ questions that after reviewing the case, he believes he has enough evidence to win.

The lengthy criminal complaint against Norman runs to 21 pages. You can view the full report here. Beyond the blood in the Bachman family cellar, here is some of the other circumstantial evidence against Norman included in the criminal complaint:

  • The primary evidence is Toni’s blood. Her blood was found on the cellar floor, doorknob, screen door, by the chest freezer and on a bed sheet stuffed between a mattress and bed frame. Blood was also found on the side of Norman’s pickup truck, but the DNA was too degraded to make an identification.
  • In a car trip to Verndale shortly after Toni’s disappearance, several children remembered there being a cooler in the back of the car and a strange odor in the front. Norman denies there were coolers in the car.
  • Toni’s 12-year-old son told police he heard Norman scream the night she disappeared. He initially attributed the scream to her lancing a boil. Seven months later he told police that he thought Norman had killed his mother and that the house smelled “bitter and awkward” afterward.
  • In 2003, another son, then 16, said he saw Norman enter the bedroom with an Exacto knife and heard a muffled sound, “like someone trying to say something from under a pillow.” A few days after Toni’s disappearance, Norman told him that she had called, but the son didn’t see the number on the caller ID.
  • Prosecutors will try to show that Toni had no immediate intention of disappearing. In the week before she disappeared, she accepted a new job at Hamline University, applied for a parking pass and ordered a desk calendar, a keyboard pad and other office supplies. Emails and chat room messages show that she did not plan on moving anytime in the near future.
  • Toni wrote in emails to a man she was seeing that Norman was “threatening me with stuff.”

Esme Murphy