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Richard Peterson, Man Last Seen With Amanda Vangrinsven, Charged With Murder

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The man last seen with Amanda Vangrinsven, the central Minnesota woman who went missing earlier this month, is charged with murder after authorities found the woman's body buried on his property.

Richard Peterson, of Isanti, is charged with one count of second-degree murder, documents filed in Isanti County show. He made his first court appearance Thursday.

According to a criminal complaint, Vangrinsven, 32, was reported missing after the night of Aug. 5, when she was last seen out drinking with Peterson. The two were first seen that night at the Isanti VFW, where Vangrinsven worked and where Peterson was the vice commander. Then the two were seen at the Dugout Bar in nearby Bethel.

Cellphone data showed that after leaving the Dugout Bar, the two went to Peterson's home in Athens Township.

Vangrinsven was supposed to work at the VFW the next morning but didn't show up for her shift, although her car was still parked outside the building. Co-workers immediately became concerned, and one of them reported to investigators that they called Peterson several times. When he eventually called back, he allegedly told the co-worker that he had dropped Vangrinsven off near the bar the night before.

The co-worker didn't buy it, and told Peterson they were contacting police. Peterson responded with a string of "nonsensical emojis," the complaint states. He later went to the VFW late in the morning and appeared to be looking for something near the bar in portable restrooms and inside vehicles.

In the following days, investigators executed multiple search warrants on Peterson's property after they learned that he was seen digging holes with heavy machinery the morning after he was with Vangrinsven. Later, Peterson's wife told investigators that he spent the morning digging all over the property.

On Aug. 11, investigators found Vangrinsven's body on the southwest end of Peterson's property, buried so deep that Peterson's own backhoe tractor attachment needed to be used to retrieve the body. According to a medical examiner's report, Vangrinsven's cause of death was a single gunshot to the back of the head.

Investigators obtained several firearms from Peterson's home, however these didn't initially match the ballistics profile of the gun used to kill Vangrinsven. Later, however, a friend of Peterson's grew suspicious of two guns he gave him on the day Vangrinsven was reported missing. These guns did fit the profile of the handgun used to kill Vangrinsven.

If convicted of the murder charge, Peterson faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. His bail has been set at $3 million without conditions, or $1 million conditionally.

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