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Homicide suspected in Hibbing-area woman's death

Homicide is suspected in the death of a 71-year-old Iron Range woman, authorities announced Monday.

The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office said Courtney Lee Fenske was found dead last week in her Lavell Township residence, just southeast of Hibbing. No arrests have been made in the case, and authorities released few other details Monday.

Lt. Jason Akerson said deputies were called to the home, 11072 S. Townline Road, on Nov. 29 after a “concerned citizen” requested a welfare check. Fenske was found dead inside the residence.

Akerson said a preliminary examination from the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office indicated that Fenske died of homicide. He said investigators believe she died sometime between Sunday, Nov. 26, and Monday, Nov. 27.

Akerson would not disclose the nature of Fenske’s death or say why authorities had not previously announced the death.

“We’re not going to talk about a method or cause right now, just to make sure our investigation remains uncompromised,” he told the News Tribune. “We had to wait for a preliminary report, and we’re still waiting for everything that’s still pending. So right now, we’re operating off a preliminary report.”

Erik Thorson, a spokesman for the Twin Cities-based medical examiner’s office, said the victim’s identification by the sheriff’s office was preliminary and not yet official. Therefore, he said, no further details were immediately available from his office.

Akerson said the case is “very much an active investigation,” with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension assisting.

Anyone who had recent contact with Fenske or observed anything suspicious in the area is asked to call (218) 742-9825 or 911.

This is the third homicide case in the immediate Hibbing area this year, and the second for which no arrests have yet been made.

On Jan. 17, 54-year-old Joel Dean Gangness was found stabbed and bludgeoned inside his apartment at the old Star Motel, 3901 First Ave.

Benjamin David Lundquist, 33, allegedly admitted to the random killing because "Jesus directed him to do it.” He is charged with intentional second-degree murder.

On July 11, 60-year-old Brian Joseph Nelson was reportedly stabbed to death inside his residence at 2408½ First St., behind the Bottle Shop liquor store that he owned and operated.

No arrests have been made in that case, and police last reported that they were seeking to talk to anyone who made contact with him between Saturday, July 8, and Monday, July 10.