Long Prairie, Minn. — Long Prairie is a town of about 3,000 people in central Minnesota's Todd County. Residents here have lived under a dark cloud since Monday, when police found three residents dead in their home.
They were Holly Chromey, 49, and her children, Katie Zapzalka, 18, and Jared Zapzalka, 16. They had been tied up with electrical tape, stabbed and beaten. Immediately, dozens of law enforcement personal across the state joined the investigation. On Wednesday, police arrested two suspects in the Twin Cities.
Long Prairie Police Chief Chuck Eldred says investigators don't understand why the family was killed.
"The arrests came as the result of information that developed during this investigation," says Eldred. "The investigation has shown no connection between the suspects and the victims. This appears to be a random act of senseless violence."
Eldred said Christopher Earl, 20. and Jonathon Carpenter, 21, both from Brooklyn Park, were picked up Wednesday night and then moved to the Todd County jail.
The police displayed mug shots of the two men, both of whom appeared bruised from a scuffle.
Just as Long Prairie authorities wrapped up their press conference, Minneapolis police announced that the two were also suspects in a murder in northeast Minneapolis.
William Schwartz, 88, and his daughter Claudia Schwartz, 50, were found dead in their home on April 17. The two had been beaten, and their throats were cut.
Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson says the motive in that crime, and the Long Prairie murders, appears to be robbery. Police believe the cash taken from the Schwartz home included a number of rare old silver dollars and Kennedy half-dollars. A bank in Plymouth received coins of that type but police had not yet examined them, Olson said.
Chief Olson also said the suspects may be linked to other serious crimes.
"The firearms that were recovered yesterday from a house where they were staying appear to be fruits of a burglary in Becker County. And we suspect there's a lot of things all around Minnesota these two individuals might be involved in," Olson says.
This appears to be a random, senseless act of violence.
According to the complaint, Earl admitted to investigators that he and Carpenter killed the Long Prairie family while burglarizing their home. Earl told officers he and Carpenter had no prior relationship with their victims, it said.
As far as Minneapolis police know, the suspects had only minor items on their criminal records, Olson says. But both were known drug users, he added.
Until Brooklyn Park police received a tip, nothing had pointed investigators to the suspects. Police arrested them about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at a house in northeast Minneapolis, not far from the Schwartz home. Olson said both of the men tried to pull guns on the officers, but they were subdued without shots being fired.
One of the suspects was staying at the house where the two were arrested, Olson said. An adult and three children who appeared to be between the ages of 12 and 14 also were in the house, but were not arrested, Olson said.
The arrests of the two suspects has residents of Long Prairie relieved. They were on edge after the murders, and police told them to secure their homes.
Dozens of people jeered the suspects as they were delivered to the Todd County jail Wednesday night. About 100 people turned up at the Long Prairie Police Station to hear the announcement about the arrests.
Amanda LeNore, 18, was a friend of Long Prairie victim Katie Zapzalka.
"At first we had this thought that it was somebody we knew, which would've been not good. But better than just knowing it was some random person that didn't know them, didn't care about them. It just bothers me that they had to come to this town and go right to that house," LeNore says.
The fact that this appears to have been a random killing is what bothers residents like Alex Sommerville the most.
"I don't understand why they came here. Why did they come to Long Prairie? We're a small town, a small community, everybody knows everybody. Why come to town like this and do something like that? It's not right, it's senseless," says Sommerville.
The two suspects have been charged with second-degree murder. Todd County authorities say they'll ask a grand jury for first degree murder indictments.
Hennepin County authorities are working on a case of their own, and plan to file charges in the Schwartz murders.
(Minnesota Public Radio's Art Hughes contributed to this report)