Today the St. Louis County Attorney' Office will file 1st-degree murder charges against Jesse Dahlstrom for committing one of the most awful, senseless acts of violence in Duluth's history.
Police say Dahlstrom, who is believed to be suffering from severe mental illness, walked into a SuperOne grocery store in west Duluth last Thursday night and randomly stabbed a 75-year-old woman to death with a butcher knife. Several SuperOne employees heroically subdued Dahlstrom and detained him until police arrived.
See also: Cub Employee Stabbed
Dahlstrom, 35, does not have a criminal record, but Duluth police confirmed yesterday they have dealt with him before.
"We've had contact in the past with this guy," said Ron Tinsley, Duluth PD's public information officer. "Based on those previous contacts we're led to believe that there is going to be a link between mental health issues and this incident."
The victim, Sally Pionk, lived in nearby Proctor, according to a press release issued by Duluth PD. A candlelight vigil will be held this Saturday night to honor Pionk after a memorial service Friday.
"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Sally Marie Pionk," St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said in a press release issued yesterday afternoon. "This is an absolute tragedy. Homicide never makes sense. We will do our best to hold the offender accountable and seek justice in this case."
[UPDATE 12/16, 11:30 a.m.] According to the charges filed this morning:
Dahlstrom walked into the store openly brandishing a knife. He stared down Pionk for about 20 seconds in the bakery section before grabbing her from behind and stabbing her in the neck. A male employee rushed over, kicked Dahlstrom away and tried to help Pionk.
Dahlstrom was pinned down by several people until cops arrived minutes later. After his arrest he admitted stabbing Pionk and said he went to the store "'either shop or kill somebody' that evening."
If Dahlstrom's lawyer challenges the charges on mental competency grounds, criminal proceedings will be suspended while Dahlstrom undergoes an evaluation at the mental hospital in St. Peter.
There are 31 SuperOne grocery stores across the Upper Midwest, including six in Duluth. The stabbing took place at the store located at 5300 Bristol St. The Duluth News Tribune posted a statement from SuperOne on its website last week, which read, in part:
Words cannot express how profoundly saddened we are that Ms. Pionk lost her life through what appears to be a random act of unprovoked violence while innocently shopping at our store.
We are proud of the actions of our West Duluth employees, particularly the heroic efforts of the young men who disarmed the perpetrator and held him down for several minutes until the police arrived. Their immediate and decisive action in subduing and restraining the perpetrator clearly prevented an awful situation from becoming worse. We also want to express our appreciation to those store customers and employees that came to Ms. Pionk's aid following this brutal attack.
This was the third murder committed recently in Duluth. In September Carmen Mosqueda was charged with stabbing his mother to death, and in October Christopher Peterson admitted to suffocating his 13-month-old daughter.
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