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Details emerge with murder charge in Lake Superior killing, dismemberment case

A 35-year-old Superior man has been charged with second-degree murder of a St. Paul man.

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Jacob Colt Johnson
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A Superior man is now accused of murder in the killing and dismemberment of a St. Paul man whose remains were found in Lake Superior last month.

Jacob Colt Johnson, 35, was charged Monday in Cook County District Court with second-degree murder in the death of Richard Balsimo Jr., the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a news release. Johnson is jailed in Douglas County on unrelated charges.

The night before Balsimo went missing, witnesses told police he had driven to the Twin Cities from Duluth with the suspect, according to the criminal complaint. Balsimo reportedly told a friend that he was having an issue with the person he was with and that the person was "packing."

The two men eventually picked up two women in the Twin Cities. In interviews, both women said the two men started arguing with each other in the car in the early morning of June 20 and that Balsimo was threatening everyone in the car with a knife.

After hearing a loud noise from inside the car, both women jumped out of the car and took off running.


The two women ended up at the suspect's father's home nearby. Johnson later showed up, stating he couldn't bring back the car, an Audi Q5, and left, the complaint said.

Johnson is the third person to be charged in connection with the death. Robert Thomas West, 41, of South Range, was charged July 16 with felony counts of aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact and interference with a dead body. Tommi Lynn Hintz, 31, of Duluth, was taken into custody Aug. 11 on charges of accomplice after the fact to felony murder and interference with a dead body.


After the alleged gunfire in the car, Hintz was contacted by Johnson and asked to travel south from Duluth to bring him gas, the complaint said. Johnson allegedly told Hintz that he couldn't run out of gas. When asked why, he told Hintz not to make him tell her what he had on him.
Hintz assumed this meant Johnson had controlled substances on him and met him at West's home in South Range. When Johnson arrived at West's home, West said he looked in the vehicle and saw Balsimo was dead, according to the complaint. There were bullet holes in the seat.

The two men then moved the Audi and covered the body, according to the complaint. Later, West took Johnson to Douglas County property that included an RV and mobile home. They allegedly moved the victim's body into the RV, where Johnson allegedly dismembered it and placed it into buckets.

West reportedly said he went to Menards to purchase tools to dismember the body and the cement used to fill the buckets before sinking them in Lake Superior. West told Johnson he'd handle getting rid of the buckets, according to the complaint.

Balsimo's remains were eventually placed in 5-gallon buckets and a tote, which were recovered from Lake Superior near Grand Portage on July 15 and 16.

Before the remains were dropped in the lake, West asked Hintz if she knew anyone with a boat so he could go fishing, the complaint said. The two then allegedly caravanned up to Grand Portage on June 22 to use a commercial angler's boat. West allegedly said he needed to drop his grandmother's valuables in the lake. He eventually revealed to Hintz that Balsimo had been shot in "self-defense" and his body was chopped up, authorities said.


The Audi, later discovered to have belonged to Johnson, was found burned and unidentifiable June 26 in Douglas County. It appeared the driver's side rear seat, where Balsimo was allegedly sitting, had been removed prior to the burning. West allegedly told Hintz he paid someone to burn the car.

During a search of the property housing the RV, law enforcement located cement on the grass and red stains on the RV door.

The owner of the property told law enforcement that West was there the morning of June 21, as was a small crossover vehicle, and that the security system was removed from the property along with a tarp that matched the description of the tarp the victim's body was found with.

The Balsimo family had hired private investigators from Applied Professional Services in Duluth on July 1 to help locate their son. A statement from the agency said investigators were first to uncover evidence identifying him as a likely homicide victim, along with the suspects and the location of his remains. The agency also released a statement Monday reacting to the most recent arrests, stating that the murder charges "reflect the heinousness of his (Balsimo's) murder."

"These stiff penalties are warranted because of the barbaric nature of this crime,” Justin Terch, President of Duluth’s Applied Professional Services detective agency said in the statement Monday. “We continue to grieve for the Balsimo family, which received the closure it sought in Richard’s disappearance, but which also has had to deal with the gruesome details surrounding his murder."

This story was updated at 11 a.m. Aug. 17 with additional details from the criminal complaint. It was originally posted at 10:21 p.m. Aug. 16.

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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