Toni Bachman was last seen on April 25, 1997. It was a few days after she learned she was getting a new job at Hamline University.
Toni and her husband Norman Bachman were having marital troubles, according to emails and chat logs reviewed by Ramsey County. She wanted to leave Norman for a West Virginian man she met in an online chat room, but she couldn't do that until she felt financially secure.
Norman told investigators she spent most of the weekend in her bedroom because a boil on her butt was bugging her. Sunday night he took his three sons, all from a previous marriage, to the store to get some gauze for her. When they returned, she was gone.
Five days later Norman took his sons to Verndale, Minn., to visit his sister. He brought a cooler, a couple of buckets, and a shovel, and left the kids with his sister for an hour or two to "go talk to someone about some money," according to the charges. He left again for a short time to find some trees to replant back home.
Investigators found blood matching Toni's DNA on a large chest freezer in the Bachmans' root cellar and on a screen door leading from the basement to the cellar. They also found Toni's blood on a sheet stuffed between the mattress and box spring in her bedroom.
Despite this evidence, Ramsey County declined to charge Norman in both 1997 and 1999.
In 1998, Norman pleaded guilty to a violent rape and was sentenced to 86 months in prison. The woman he began dating a month after Toni's disappearance told police he tied her up, cut her clothes off, put a knife to her throat and entered her. He spent all night threatening to kill her and himself because "he wanted to die" and "didn't want to die alone."
In the morning the woman convinced Norman to let her go because she wanted to hug her kids one last time.
By 2012, Norman's son Fredrick (now age 29) "told investigators that, after confronting [Norman] about [Toni's] disappearance, [Norman] admitted killing her but that 'nobody could prove it.'"
Yesterday, two weeks shy of the 18th anniversary of Toni's disappearance, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in connection with Toni's disappearance.
Why did it take so long for charges to be filed, especially in light of Norman's son's accusations in 2012?
"There's not one piece of evidence we can point to, there's no smoking gun, per se," says Ramsey County Attorney spokesperson Dennis Gerhardstein. "It really comes down to 'do we feel like we have enough evidence over the entire 18-year investigation that we can meet the burden of proof?'"
"We now feel comfortable with that. That's the best I can do at this point, in terms of a rationale for bringing the charges," he says.
Bachman still categorically denies the charges and made his first appearance in court yesterday. His next appearance comes April 15.
Read the charges for yourself on page two.
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