On June 15, 1991, Carin Streufert, an 18-year-old Grand Rapids college student, went to Perkins Restaurant with friends. Although it was 2:30 a.m., she elected to walk home alone. After all, this is Grand Rapids, what could possibly happen? As she walked along Pokegama Avenue, just south of the bridge, a car slowed and stopped. It contained two young men. One was James Swanson and the other was Guy Sullivan. Once Carin was in their car, they drove south to rural Aitkin County. There they brutally raped her, shot her in the head and concealed her body in a wooded area.

By morning, her parents were very concerned when she had not yet returned home. They called authorities and the search for Carin began. Information surfaced that James Sullivan was involved in the disappearance. Law enforcement officers were pulling out all stops trying to find Carin. One of these officers was now retired Grand Rapids Police Chief Harvey Dahline, another retired Itasca County Sheriff Pat Medure. There were many others working this case. It is probably safe to say that every peace officer in Itasca and Aitkin Counties were doing whatever they could to locate Carin.  Swanson and Sullivan were confronted by law enforcement officers and eventually  confessed to the kidnapping and pre-meditated murder of Carin Streufert. They led officers and deputies to where they had hidden Carin’s body. 

On July 3, 1991, an Aitkin County grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging Swanson with kidnapping, rape and pre-meditated murder. The criminal trial was held in Beltrami County. On December 14, 1991, a jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts. Swanson was sentenced to life imprisonment for First Degree Murder and a consecutive 91-month sentence for kidnapping. 

Swanson appealed his conviction, claiming that his confession should not have been admitted at the criminal trial and that his sentences should run concurrently, not consecutively. The court ruled against Swanson stating, “Here, the defendant kidnapped, raped and killed Carin Streufert, attempted to cover up the crime and initially lied about his involvement to the police…we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing life imprisonment plus a consecutive 91-month sentence for kidnapping.”

Thirty years have passed. The Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections must now decide if James Sullivan should be released from prison, back into the community. I know Commissioner Schnell to be an honorable man who values everyone’s opinion. You can choose to make your opinion known by writing or e-mailing Commissioner Schnell at the below address.

Life Sentence Review Input

Attn: Life Sentence Advocacy Staff

1450 Energy Park Drive

St. Paul, MN 55108

I am not sure that law enforcement in Itasca County can insure Mr. Swanson’s safety if he is released back into the community or that the residents of Minnesota are safer with him walking our streets. You see, that June night in 1991, he didn’t just take the life of a young 18-year-old girl who trusted that her community was safe, he also took our community’s innocence.

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