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Eyed for decades as a possible murderer, Minnesota man finds himself back in the spotlight

Christa Lawler, Star Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CLIMAX, MINN. – Brian Evenson has long lived with outsiders' suspicions that he murdered a woman he loved ― and has even on occasion wondered himself if he strangled her in the middle of the night, drove home and then forgot about it.

In the 40 years since Nancy Daugherty, a 38-year-old mother and nursing home aide, was killed in her Chisholm, Minn., home, investigators have interviewed Evenson a dozen times. They collected his DNA, the shirt he wore the last time he saw her, a list of places he left his fingerprints in her home. He was among the last to see her alive. He was the one who touched her cold, stiff fingers the next day and knew she was dead.

At a news conference in July 2020, Chisholm police and other law enforcement officials said another man, one who had never been a suspect, had been charged with Daugherty's murder thanks to advances in genetic genealogy. The cold case had its first arrest — Michael Allan Carbo Jr. — which came after authorities tested the DNA of more than 100 suspects and thousands of dollars in reward money went unclaimed.

"Oh my goodness, finally," Evenson remembers thinking when he saw the news reports.

A jury found Carbo guilty in St. Louis County District Court in 2022. But he and his attorneys said his defense was hindered because they were not allowed to point to an alternate perpetrator. This month, the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed and sent the case back to the district court for a retrial.

That threw Evenson back in the spotlight. He is the alternate perpetrator.

 

"I want to start off by saying I did not kill Nancy," Evenson, 74, said recently as he sat at his kitchen table — empty save for a small red-and-blue ambulance toy at the center, a gift from Daugherty when he finished school to become a paramedic.

Evenson lives more than 250 miles from his hometown of Hibbing, Minn., in this Red River Valley town of 243 people named for chewing tobacco, according to lore. He has a small, simply kept home in a row of houses just beyond downtown. Fields abut two sides of the property. The home is neat, without much decoration.

He works part-time on his cousin's farm. He's lived here for more than a decade; he plans to retire soon and live here until he dies.

Every day, Evenson said, his mind winds back to Daugherty. He considers her the love of his life. He's detailed and remembers the important dates.

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