More than three years after homicide was suspected in the death of a 71-year-old Hibbing-area woman in her home, a 51-year-old suspect has been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

Blake Andrew Stangel, of Hibbing, was arrested May 24 on unrelated charges when he consented to provide a DNA sample, according to a news release from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension tested Stangel's DNA against the DNA from the November 2017 crime scene and found them to match. Stangel was a former renter of the homicide victim, Courtney Fenske.

Blake Stangel. (Photo courtesy of St. Louis County Jail)
Blake Stangel. (Photo courtesy of St. Louis County Jail)

The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Fenske died sometime between Nov. 26 and Nov. 27, 2017, from ligature strangulation and smothering. The Sheriff's Office found Fenske's body on Nov. 29, 2017, after a mail carrier noticed Fenske had not been picking up her mail.

The victim's body was found with pants wrapped around her face and neck, and tied in a knot behind her head, according to the criminal complaint. There was also a thin piece of fabric wound tightly around her neck, as well as other materials wrapped around her body.

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DNA was extracted from the rope and victim's body. On May, 20, 2021, a Sheriff's Office investigator received a call from a Grand Rapids Police Department detective who told him that a "reliable" informant shared that Stangel was involved in the woman's death, the complaint said.

The Hibbing Police Department then arrested Stangel on outstanding warrants, which is when he consented to providing the DNA sample.

Stangel was charged May 28 with second-degree manslaughter. He is currently being held at the St. Louis County Jail with bail set at $100,000.

This story was updated at 3:38 p.m. June 1 with additional information from the criminal complaint. It was originally posted at 2:09 p.m. June 1.