When Koochiching County Sheriff's deputies arrived at Carl and Linda Muggli's home in Ray, they found Linda lying in a pool of her own blood in the garage where she and her husband carve totem poles.
She was rushed to the hospital, still breathing, but died later that day. When the deputies asked her bereaved husband what happened, he told her she'd been crushed when a 2,900 pound totem they were carving lurched out of its supports and fell on her.
That was the accepted narrative until an anonymous source revealed Muggli was having an affair. Now the totem pole is being treated as a murder weapon.[jump]
The Mugglis achieved considerable success since they started their totem carving business. They carved totems for Six Flags amusement parks, "Greys Anatomy" sets and, perhaps most famously, for the Princess Diana memorial park in London.
The day of her death, Carl Muggli told deputies that he and his wife had been carving a 17-foot-tall, 1.45 ton pine column into a totem together. He claimed that the totem was already lying unevenly when he tried to turn it with a cant hook. The pole, he said, must have rolled out of its support and fell on his wife. He said he had his back to her when it happened, and when he turned around, the column was crushing her chest and neck.
After her death, a post went up on the couple's website, alerting customers to the tragedy.
"Linda Muggli 1949-2010 - she passed while doing what she loved," it reads. "Carl Muggli plans on continuing their work and passion carving totem poles."
Muggli's story came under suspicion after a "concerned citizen" pointed deputies to a series of messages flying back and forth between Muggli and a woman in Alabama in the weeks leading up to Linda's death. According to the criminal complaint, deputies dumped Muggli's computer and found love letters on Facebook as well as emails to various real estate agents in Texas.
"I well Marry you I just do not want problems," he wrote to the unnamed woman a month before Linda's death. "We can handle this all but we will do it right for all parties."
The day before Linda died, he wrote to a real estate agent in Texas inquiring about a two-bedroom rental.
"I am looking for a country home on 5 or more acres to rent or lease with option to buy. (my current situation--divorce-will not allow buying)," he wrote.
The same day, he wrote to his girlfriend, "Eveningstar-Bunny-MyWife . . . I want us together to live our lives as we seek."
Deputies spoke with another woman who says she was at the Muggli's home about a half hour before the accident, and says the tension between husband and wife was so high that she wanted to leave as soon as possible. When deputies interviewed Muggli's mystery girlfriend, she admitted that she'd spoken with Muggli that day and had heard him arguing with Linda about a divorce.
The woman also said Muggli called her back a half hour later to tell her there had been an accident. He told her EMTs were working on Linda as they spoke.
In the course of the six-month investigation, authorities attempted to re-create the accident as Muggli had described. He'd continued work on the totem that killed his wife -- carving it and coating it with polyurethane -- but officers put it back where it had been the day of the accident, on supports about 16 inches above the floor. They borrowed a cant hook from a neighbor and tried to get the pole to roll out as Muggli described. After five attempts, they gave up, unsuccessful.
Muggli's version of events also changed a number of times, according to the complaint. Initially, he told deputies he didn't know how Linda had ended up underneath the pole. The owners of the totem told police that Muggli said she was working underneath it. Muggli gave Linda's brother yet another account -- that an entirely different log had killed her; a fresh, uncut piece of wood that had fallen from a Bobcat and hit her.
Muggli did secure a property in Texas and traveled there early this month. Authorities in Minnesota executed a warrant and had him arrested on Tuesday and transported back to Koochiching County yesterday. He is still in custody and his first court appearance is today at 1:30 p.m.