Murder Charge Filed in Death of Southern Minnesota Farmer
Winthrop, MN (KROC-AM News)- Prosecutors filed a second-degree murder charge Monday against a man accused of killing a southern Minnesota farmer last fall.
The Sibley County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of an unresponsive person with unknown trauma at a farm about a mile outside of Winthrop last September. Responding deputies found 79-year-old Dennis Weitzenkamp's deceased at the property on September 20.
An autopsy performed by the Midwest Medical Examiner determined Weitzenkamp’s death was the result of a homicide, which triggered a murder investigation conducted by the Sibley County Sheriff’s Office and Minnesota BCA. The autopsy indicated Weitzenkamp's was shot in the head with a small-caliber bullet while shucking an ear of corn, the criminal complaint says.
Court documents say Weitzenkamp had a man who helped him on the farm identified as 46-year-old Travis Bauer of Winthrop. Investigators interviewed Bauer, who told them he saw Weitzenkamp while going into Winthrop to pick up antifreeze at an auto part store.
Investigators reviewed cellphone data and surveillance camera footage that contradicted Bauer’s account of the events on the day of Weitzenkamp’s murder. Bauer admitted to lying about his whereabouts on the day of Weitzenkamp’s murder during a second interview with investigators, saying he was nervous and wanted to keep his story straight, according to the complaint.
Investigators also collected the clothes Bauer was wearing the day of the murder and found gunshot residue on the clothing. Bauer told law enforcement he had used a firearm about three weeks before the murder, the complaint says.
Evidence at the scene did not indicate a burglary or forced entrance had taken place and the location of Weitzenkamp’s body indicated his killer was known to him. The murder investigation also revealed that Bauer was facing significant debt and that he would financially benefit from Weitzenkamp’s death, according to a law enforcement review of trust documents, court documents say.
Bauer was arraigned on the second-degree murder charge Monday. Court records indicate he posted a $50,000 conditional cash bail and is due back in court in April.