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Suspected Kidnapper Leads Officials to Body
By Brent Wolfe
August 26, 1999

Related Story
Read reporter Mitch Teich's original MPR article about Jessical Swanson's disappearance, Search Mounts for Jessica Swanson.

Searchers looking for the body of three-year-old Jessica Swanson found skeletal remains wrapped in a sheet at a site about 10 miles from her former Cannon Falls home. Authorities arrested Swanson's mother and her boyfriend yesterday morning in connection with Jessica's disappearance four years ago, and the Goodhue County sheriff says the boyfriend confessed to killing the girl and led investigators to the site where they unearthed the remains.

DALE JENSON AND MICHELLE SWANSON faced arraignment in Goodhue County court on the morning of Agust 26. Authorities arrested them in Hastings yesterday and charged Jenson with kidnapping Jessica in 1995. They charged Swanson with being an accomplice after the fact with the kidnapping. Goodhue County Sheriff Dean Albers says a special FBI interrogator interviewed Jenson immediately after the arrest and he confessed to killing Jessica and led investigators to a wooded gully between two corn fields where he says he left her body wrapped in a sheet. Searchers cut through heavy underbrush all afternoon and towards evening Sheriff Albers says they found skeletal remains. Albers says authorities had exhausted all leads in the case and decided to arrest Jenson on kidnapping charges even though they weren't sure he'd confess to killing Jessica.

Albers: You go when the time is right. You hit a moment and knowing when that is, it's probably just more of an educated guess. We felt the time was right. Nothing was really coming in of any significance. We'd tried a number of different things to try to stir up some interest again and really nothing was gained from that so we just felt that this was the time.
Investigators suspected Jessica's mother and her boyfriend from the beginning. Albers says Swanson never inquired about the investigation of her daughter's disappearance after her initial report to police. Jessica disappeared early on the morning of June 27th, 1995 while Swanson was at work in Cannon Falls. Albers says Jenson couldn't account for a 15-minute gap in his whereabouts that morning. The sheriff believes Jenson killed Jessica after some sort of dispute with the girl and then dumped her body on his way to work in Zumbrota. It's not clear what role Swanson played in her daughter's death. The evidence suggests she was at work and unaware that Jenson killed the girl until after the fact. However, the complaint against Swanson alleges that in one wiretapped conversation, she implied to a friend that she lied to police about her knowledge of the crime.

Albers says his investigators are glad to see the case coming to an end.

Albers: I can speak for myself and I think I speak for the rest of the investigators and everyone involved, a huge sense of relief and yet a sense of emptiness, a mix of emotions. You, it's not something you jump up and high-five, you can't. I mean we're talking about a three-year-old child.
The Goodhue County Attorney says he'll amend charges against Jenson to include murder or manslaughter after authorities have a chance to analyze the remains and see if there's physical evidence to corroborate what Jenson told them.