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Jury deliberates in Chisholm cold case slaying

Jurors did not have a verdict Monday evening in the case of Michael Allan Carbo Jr., who is charged with raping and killing Nancy Daugherty in 1986.

Michael Carbo
Michael Carbo
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HIBBING — Nancy Daugherty fought for her life, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.

The 38-year-old mother of two tried to fend off an unknown assailant who attacked her at her Chisholm home on July 16, 1986, Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Jon Holets said.

And while Daugherty was unsuccessful — she was found raped and strangled to death later that day — she did manage to preserve critical evidence under her fingernails that would help solve the case more than three decades later.

Nancy Daugherty
Nancy Daugherty

“She fought, scraped and clawed," Holets told jurors in a closing argument. "She made sure you had the evidence so you would know what happened.”

Defense attorney J.D. Schmid readily admitted that Michael Allan Carbo Jr.'s DNA was found throughout the crime scene.

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But he contended it has little significance — proving nothing other than that his client and the victim had sex that night.

“You have heard nothing to establish that the only way DNA gets under fingernails is through scratching," Schmid told jurors. "It got there from touching during sex.”

Carbo, 54, is on trial for the killing that occurred when he was just 18. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder while committing or attempting first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and faces life imprisonment if convicted.

Jurors heard closing arguments Monday afternoon following five days of testimony last week.

They deliberated for 2 1/2 hours, retiring without a verdict. The panel will resume its work Tuesday morning at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Hibbing.

Much of the case has focused on DNA — a tool that was in its infancy at the time but ultimately led to Carbo's arrest in July 2020. He was never a suspect in the case until a private contractor was hired by the Chisholm Police Department to comb genetic databases and develop leads based on known crime scene samples.

Holets told jurors that Daughtery was seemingly surprised by her attacker in the early morning hours, going outside to the wet grass in her socks. An area of matted-down grass pointed to a physical struggle outside, the prosecutor said, as did strewn-about items inside.

Daugherty was found in her bed, and Holets said DNA showed that Carbo was responsible for semen left at the scene. He said there was no indication that she was able to move after being raped.

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“He squeezed the life from her neck," Holets said. "He took what he wanted. And then he forgot — or so he says.”

The prosecutor noted that Daugherty, a nursing home employee and ambulance service volunteer, had been packing for a move to the Twin Cities to further her education in pursuit of a paramedic career.

Instead, he said: “Parts of her would go — reduced to little slides, samples and tubes — to be preserved for the future when better technology came along.”

But Schmid criticized what he called "gaping holes in the case" and "things that cannot be explained away."

The defense attorney maintained that Carbo and Daugherty had consensual sex and that someone else came to the residence and killed her after he left.

"If Ms. Daugherty was attacked outside, as the state suggests — if that area in the grass was the location of a struggle between Ms. Daugherty and Mr. Carbo — there would’ve been injuries to her arms, legs, torso, back," Schmid said. "There wasn’t, and there wasn’t because there was no rape."

He pointed to a dark-colored vehicle that was reportedly seen in the driveway — Carbo didn't drive at the time — and that fact that the only missing item from the house was a single earring, part of a pair given to her by her friend Brian Evenson, the last person to have seen her alive and the first to discover her dead body.

Schmid claimed that Daugherty cleaned herself off with a washcloth after having sex with Carbo, contradicting the state's position, and said an argument was heard by neighbors spanning roughly 45 to 60 minutes, which he claimed would not make sense for a random attack.

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“There is no question what happened to Ms. Daugherty is a tragedy," he told jurors. "There is no question it is a tragedy for the family. There is no question it is a tragedy for her friends. There is no question it is a tragedy for the entire community of Chisholm.

"But convicting an innocent man does not make that tragedy go away. It does not bring justice for Ms. Daugherty. It only makes things worse.”

Holets, however, pointed to a lack of any other "credible physical evidence" being found at the crime scene, suggesting a different killer would have left DNA traces.

“The defendant left a string of clues for investigators and jurors to follow," he said. "The conclusions show that Nancy Daugherty’s death and rape were intertwined.”

READ MORE IN CRIME AND COURTS
"The part that is not resolved is not going to be resolved ever," the victim's daughter said after the sentencing. "He's obviously not going to admit to this at all, whatsoever."

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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