Duane Clark buried a baby in his backyard

But authorities say no crime was committed

Duane Clark parked his beat-up Chevy pickup outside the Crystal police station. Clark's friend and passenger, Kalina Rasmussen, was pushing him to tell the cops his story.

"I told him he had to do it for the kid," Rasmussen recalls.

Clark, a man with slicked-back hair and a landscaper's build, relented. He stepped out of the Silverado that cold February afternoon and headed for the main entrance.

Duane Clark and his wife,  Tiffany Clark
Hennepin County Sheriff
Duane Clark and his wife, Tiffany Clark
The clandestine grave where Duane Clark buried his third child
Crystal Police Dept.
The clandestine grave where Duane Clark buried his third child

Just before he walked in, he called his mother.

"Where are you?" Donna Marie Thotland asked.

"I'm walking into the police station," Clark replied.

Clark was already a wanted man, sought by police over a domestic dispute with his wife that morning.

Two of Crystal's finest met him in the lobby, in front of a trophy case bearing the department's commendations. The cops expected Clark to talk about the fight he'd had that morning with his wife, Tiffany.

Officer Tracie Lee noticed Clark was breathing heavily and appeared shaky as he extended a hand to Sgt. Robin Erkenbrack.

"I have something to confess to you," Clark said. "About three or four years ago, my wife and I had a baby in the house. And after the baby was born, I buried it in the backyard."


In August 2003, nearly two years after the birth of their first child, Victoria Rose, Duane Clark and Tiffany Hoppes married. They had a second child, Wesley Duane, in April 2004.

After the couple moved into their house on the corner of 57th and Quail, Duane built a tall wooden fence around the property.

"They are the most unsocial people there ever was," one neighbor says. "Nobody knows anything about them."

In police interviews, Tiffany, 28, describes herself as a woman without a best friend and says Duane, 31, interfered with her relationships. Duane became abusive early on, hitting his wife during her first pregnancy, according to Tiffany. (Duane declined to be interviewed for this story.)

The family's problems intensified over the years, and the couple separated this past January. Duane moved out of the family home to be with Trisha Jean Johnson, a 21-year-old single mother he'd picked up at a casino, putting her up in a Brooklyn Park apartment.

Duane runs his own business, Pro Lawn Care and Snow Removal, and on February 27, he was doing maintenance on his plows in the backyard of his Crystal house. Later that morning, Duane knocked on the door and asked his estranged wife for permission to retrieve a wrench from the basement.

Inside the home, an argument ensued. By both accounts, it became physical: Duane shoved Tiffany against the drywall in the basement; Tiffany attacked their dryer with a hammer to scare him off.

Upstairs, the fight escalated as Duane cleared their kitchen counter, smashing the family toaster. He threatened to take the children so she would "never see them again" but left after chasing Tiffany outside, according to her account.

That evening, Duane returned and was let into the home by their daughter. He brought a replacement toaster as a peace offering. But soon the couple began arguing, and Duane refused to leave. They started fighting again. Scared, Victoria locked herself in the bathroom.

Duane grabbed Tiffany and put her in a headlock. Their son Wesley jumped on Duane's back. "I'm going to hurt somebody!" Duane threatened, according to Tiffany.

But Duane left instead.

Tiffany asked her mother, Sandy Ruhland, to come over to the house for protection. Sandy never liked Duane; she had even interfered with their plans to attend prom together.

Duane again came knocking the next morning, February 28, and said he wanted Tiffany to let him move back in.

But Tiffany refused. Not only was she concerned about her own safety, she was scared for the children.

When Tiffany tried to close the door, Duane stuck his foot in the way. Sandy rounded the corner, threatening to call police, which she did even as Duane left the house. It was the first time anyone summoned cops to the Clark family home.


Kalina Rasmussen left her son, Gavin, with Trisha Jean Johnson that morning. Rasmussen trusted Johnson, her best friend and Duane's girlfriend, to watch her child. Shortly after Rasmussen left the apartment, Johnson began calling her phone.

"Shit is going down," Johnson said. "You need to get your ass home."

That morning, Duane burst into Johnson's Brooklyn Park apartment crying. Duane unloaded a bizarre story on his young girlfriend: Tiffany had given birth to a child in their home several years ago and "buried it alive."

Johnson insisted Duane report the death to police, or she would.

"I had to do this for [Tiffany]," Duane responded. "I had to keep it secret because it would embarrass her."

Duane's frenzied appearance at the home alarmed Johnson, who called the 24-year-old Rasmussen back. Inside her messy bedroom, Johnson explained the situation to Rasmussen. Then Duane started talking about "unburying" the baby.

"He wanted to dispose of it," Rasmussen remembers. "Throw it in the garbage so nobody would ever find it."

Duane shared a different version of the baby's burial with Rasmussen: Duane claimed that the baby drowned in the toilet and he buried it to protect Tiffany.

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35 comments
Dismuke Ayanna
Dismuke Ayanna

Bitch are you crazy? No sweetie we haven't All buried a baby in a backyard.....i wish i knew you so I could punch you dead ass in the face....

dr.al
dr.al

Hunter may not have his biological father in his life, but, he has Papa, Grandpa, uncle Justin and "dad" Neil. Wants to grow up and be like uncle Justin! I only wish the other kids had these influences in their lives. Melissa is a fantastic mom and I'm a blessed to have such an amazing nephew. Its a shame hunter has Duanes genes, but, he will continue to grow up with values, morals, respect and the love of & for his family!

Linda_McMahon
Linda_McMahon

I think we've all buried a baby in the backyard at some point in our lives.

Gay Ted
Gay Ted

This type of behavior is more common in the "Coon Community"..It's known as "keepin it real".

Johnbrick34
Johnbrick34

Gotta ask yourselves what more does Hennepin County need to charge this case out

bright612
bright612

Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that the baby was stillborn and no crime was committed regarding the birth. It still seems logical that to bury a human being in one's yard is in itself a criminal act. Citypages ran a story, "The Last Kennel," on January 6,1999 about pet cemeteries. From that piece: "It's illegal to dig a hole for your pet in the back yard or toss it in somebody's dumpster." So...illegal to bury your dog in your yard, but no charges filed when you bury a child? Is this not tampering with a body, at the very least?

Trefoil
Trefoil

Could this article have more irrelevant details (i.e. Mr. Clark's sexual proclivities, the condition of Ms. Laue's home)? More ethical violations (i.e. printing children's names)? More illusions about "evidence" that doesn't meet standards required for court? Nice attempt at journalism, Mr. Pratt. Perhaps you should reserve your skills for the opinion areas of online media. And "Shame on you" City Pages, for allowing this to be published, much less with so much fanfare. And "Shame on you" too, Crystal Policy Department for facilitating the leaked correspondence. Your future relationship with the County Attorney's Office has now been tarnished for years-to-come. But kudo's to Hennepin County Attorney's Office for demonstrating courageous judgement in what surely was a heart-wrenching decision. And, gratitude to Hennepin County Child Protection for what appears to be a successful termination of parental rights for the infant that was surrendered.

Jessica Warren
Jessica Warren

keep your head up melissa and dont you worry none of us gave any thought to this article other than the shame that prosecutor should feel for not prosecuting them!!! KEEP WORKING HARD MELISSA YOU AND YOUR FAMILY WILL BE IN MY PRAYERS!!!

kelly
kelly

They both agree that the baby in the back yard was a boy, when in fact it was a girl. Shouldn't the authorities be looking for the baby boy ?! Keep his name out there and lets get justice !

Melissa
Melissa

I first off; I want to say that I am very disgusted with parts of the article. I was put out there to look like white trash and a whore when I was 17. I never “logged onto yahoo chat to look for a good time.” Also saying that I live in a “public housing unit” as well as being “seated in a cramped living room.” We were never seated in my living room for one, and for second who are you to say that it is cramped?! Where I live and how I live never should have been in the article. It has nothing to do with this story at all! I am doing the best that I can for my child. I graduated high school with my class, with a newborn baby, with no help from Duane. I have a full time job, take care of my son and make sure that he has everything that he needs in life. But, of course none of that made the paper. I look back and wish that I would have never talked to Gregor Pratt. This is Duane’s whole ordeal and not mine. I am living my life without him and raising my son without him. I don’t need my son to be link to him at all. I made the mistake by talking to the media and I will never make that mistake again! I did not know what kind of monster Duane was. I can’t change the past and I wouldn’t either. I have the most beautiful gift that anyone could have ever given me and that is my son. He is my pride in joy! I’m glad Duane walked away. That’s the best thing that he could have ever done. I now have a wonderful boyfriend of 4 years who has stepped up and has taken the role as a father to my son.

Trayvon Kasel
Trayvon Kasel

Dig a really big hole and throw some donuts in it. When these two fat azses go in to retrieve them just fill it in.

Suck
Suck

You suck.

Singe
Singe

This turd gets to reproduce FIVE TIMES and I can't even get a girlfriend. What the hell.

Lisanderson1
Lisanderson1

A very sad story of major dysfunction for all the people involved. Not only were these individuals toatlly messed up has human beings, but everyone around them were just as messed up. Duane should have had a vassectomy years ago if he didn't want to father any children. Sadly, there are so many folks just like Duane and his family that keep the tragic cylcle of abuse and stupidity ongoing, except that they may not murder their offspring. I hope his other chidlren are able to live as far away as their parents as they can get - this would be a great follow up story, Mr. Pratt.

Drop45
Drop45

Classic battered woman syndrome. This man is a monster. I hope she gets the help she needs to heal and become a whole person.

JM
JM

Crystal seems aptly named.

Mikeipina
Mikeipina

If the baby "drowed" in the toilet then it would have been born alive. Of course she wasn't getting prenatal care; that which could have prevented this in the first place. Which means he knew not only about the 4th but 3rd pregnancy. Murder if you ask me.

Guest
Guest

You Google your first dates???

Cashhuge.com
Cashhuge.com

my classmate's sister-in-law brought home $15004 the prior month. she makes money on the internet and bought a $384500 house. All she did was get lucky and use the clues revealed on that website top of this comment

Rick
Rick

Both Tiffany and Duane Clark need to be sterilized ASAP. No way in hell should these losers have the ability to breed

Nigel Parry
Nigel Parry

Why was it necessary to recount the activities of these next door monsters in such lurid detail? This sad story of dysfunctional violence doesn't do anything to make anything better. It's not an expose that will help us stop this next time, it's just a narrative journey into pointlessness.

swmnguy
swmnguy

There's no question Duane Clark will wind up in prison, or dead long before his time. Whatever is wrong with him is the kind of thing that only gets worse. You have to wonder, "Worse than this?", but yes; worse than this. Our legal system isn't perfect, and sometimes it isn't even very good. But we must remember that our system tends to do the worst in the most sensational and outrageous cases. That's too bad, but it's far worse to legislate or enforce laws on the basis of the most extreme situations. Maybe prosecutors can't prosecute anyone in this situation. But these people flagrantly can't act right, and it doesn't look like they're suddenly going to become functional human beings. Also bear in mind they have to live every day being themselves. Nobody's getting away with anything here, in the larger sense.

thinkbeforewriting
thinkbeforewriting

So, the prosecutor sends a letter to the police department listing the reasons why they can't prosecute Duane. The prosecutor does not need to list the reasons why Duane is likely guilty, because the police already know those reasons... they're the ones who recommended it to the prosecutor. Tiffany is a completely unreliable witness, and without physical evidence, you can't convict someone of murder if you can't prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that there has even been a murder. There is no way that that standard is being met here. There's too much confusion and not enough physical evidence to prove murder. This may change in the future; some new technology may allow them to reopen the case later with more physical evidence, etc. But now Duane has a list of holes to poke in any argument the prosecutor tries to make against him in court thanks to an "anonymous" police tipster and Gregory Pratt. It is entirely possible that Duane's eventual lawyer may have overlooked a point that prosecutor listed in his response to the police. Thanks to Gregory and our friend at the police station, there is no chance of that now. Making it that much harder to successfully prosecute a wife-beating baby killer. Which is why these documents are "confidential". You can only take someone to trial for murder once. If you lose, it doesn't matter what physical evidence or new testimony comes out, you can't charge them with that murder again. So when you do it, you want to make sure you're going to win. The basis of the entire case for murder against Duane was the word of Tiffany who has every reason in the world to lie to cover herself. The prosecutor is doing their job by not taking a case they can't win in spite of political pressure. Despite the author's attempt to the contrary, the prosecutor is one of the very few people in this entire story who comes out not looking like a moron. Wish the author and the "anonymous" informant at the police department could say the same. It's not about what you believe, it's about what you can prove. So congratulations, Gregory, you've helped keep Duane out of jail, continuing to spread anger and fear. Hope it was worth it.

K Fishburn
K Fishburn

Aaron Ruparts mom should have done this

Karen
Karen

And that's all he needs is a great family around him use all just need to be there for him and never let that scumbag near him and make sure he has the best life ever he will always have his dna but fuck it that's not wat makes a great person its the people around him

JD Whiting
JD Whiting

what a big racist asshole you are

Melissa
Melissa

Thanks Jessica! That really means a lot. I was shocked about the whole situation but more shocked when I found out that they werent going to prosecute them. I think it's messed up. I dont understand how someone can walk into the police station and say that there is a baby in their back yard and get away with it. It doesnt make sense to me at all!

Karen
Karen

Hold ur head high and ur middle finger higher once ur son is happy nothing else matters :)

MomL
MomL

From the ages reported it looks like Tiffany would have only been 17 also when she was first pregnant. Count your blessings- you could have been stuck with this monster.

swmnguy
swmnguy

It is porn. But I suppose it's worthwhile to remind the rest of us that all is not necessarily well around us.

Melissa
Melissa

There is no need to worry about my son being around him. I will NEVER let that happen. I was always worried that he might change his mind and start coming around but, I don't have to worry about that anymore. We are so much better without him. Thanks for the encouraging words, Karen. It means a lot. :)

Melissa
Melissa

Thanks Karen! My son is happy, I dont think he could ask for anything more. I have and will continue to give provide for my son and give him everything he needs. I couldnt have asked for a better son.

Melissa
Melissa

MomL, there is no way I would have stayed with that man. I dont put up with crap like that. He threatened me and my son once and that was enough for me to call the cops. No way was I go to stand for that. No one should have to put up with that.

 
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