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Gruesome 1977 slaying may be solved

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It's Saint Paul's version of the Clutter killings, only Saint Paul had to wait a few more decades for its justice than Holcomb, Kansas did.

In 1977. Mark Shemukenas, a potter, was found in his home, bound with electrical wire, castrated, and bloodied by slash wounds to the throat and abdomen. It quickly became one of the most fearful, gruesome killings in St. Paul history, made doubly haunting by the fact that investigators, despite rigorous work, were never able to nab the killer.

Well, when it comes to random acts of mutilation and murder, cops are pretty slow to forget, and today the Ramsey County Attorney's office publicly charged Richard Ireland Jr. with second degree murder.

From the Pioneer Press' account:

The investigation went cold until last summer, when the cold case unit started up and Muldoon began looking into the murder again. She submitted various pieces of crime scene evidence to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for further analysis, and learned that Ireland was living in Duluth.

Police took a saliva sample from Ireland in May, but he disappeared soon after and left no forwarding address. Authorities arrested him Monday at a halfway house in Minneapolis, where he was in treatment for drug or alcohol dependency.

This long awaited bringing of justice is a result of the hard work of the cold case unit, a sub-unit of the Saint Paul police dispatched on just these cases. The cold case unit has been aware of Ireland as a suspect since its formation just a little over a year ago--in 1983, Ireland was put in the pokey for mouth kissing a 15 year old boy in a sauna. During that procedure, it was noted that Ireland's prints were found in Shemukenas' home, but with some conflicting hair samples, there wasn't enough evidence for a formal charge.

Last summer, after some saliva samples collected from Ireland hit the jackpot, Ireland pulled a Houdini, and wasn't arrested until today.

It's a huge coups, and great closure to a dark and troubling chapter in Saint Paul history. And though a lot of murders go into the tomes of time completely unsolved, cases like these at least send the satisfying message that every so often, the universe and all its coincidence gets it right.