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17 years with no answers: Rachel Anthony of Pine River disappeared Feb, 27, 2001

Jessica Anthony submitted this photograph of her mother, Rachel Anthony, who disappeared the night of Feb. 27, 2001, at the end of her shift at Ultimate Liquors. Her body was found six weeks later. The case remains open and to date there has been no closure for the family.1 / 2
A photograph of a younger Rachel Anthony who disappeared the night of Feb. 27, 2001, at the end of her shift at Ultimate Liquors. Submitted2 / 2

Another year has passed and the mystery of who killed Rachel Anthony still lingers among her family, the Pine River community and the law enforcement officials who investigated her disappearance and death.

Anthony, 50, disappeared the night of Feb. 27, 2001, at the end of her shift at Ultimate Liquors in Pine River. Her body was found six weeks later in a ravine near Breezy Point, about 15 miles away on an infrequently traveled road.

Many leads were followed, potential suspects identified and then ruled out, and still today there are no answers about who abducted and murdered an innocent woman.

The case remains an open investigation with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Cass County Sheriff's Office. Spotlight on Crime is offering up to $50,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for Anthony's death. If anyone knows anything about the case—whether it be something they don't think is relevant to the case or not—they are asked to let the BCA know about it by emailing or calling the BCA tip line at 877-996-6222, or the Cass County Sheriff's Office at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677.

"You think about Rachel Anthony and what happened to her on a daily basis," Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said. "Somebody knows something and we need to know what they know to resolve this case. We would like to give closure to the family and the community on what happened to her. ... We want to know what happened to her."

Burch encourages anyone to call the sheriff's office if they know anything about the case, no matter how small. Burch said it could be just a small detail that a person may think doesn't matter to the case, but it could in fact mean something to help solve the case.

"For the past 17 years, it has been extremely difficult for the family and also on the community," Burch said. "We had about three or four tips last year after the anniversary of her disappearance. They were tips we already received but we double-checked them again, but it didn't pan out. This case is still pending and under investigation."

On the night of Anthony's disappearance, she was working alone at Ultimate Liquors in downtown Pine River, preparing to close the store. She went out and started her Ford Escort parked in front of the building to warm it up—as it was 19 degrees below zero—and locked the front door.

A Pine River police officer was on patrol and saw the Escort running about 10 p.m., which was closing time, and continued on patrol. Hours later, about midnight, the officer saw Anthony's car was still running in front of the business. Authorities conducted a welfare check, but she wasn't in the store and her purse, glasses and coat were still in the store. The back door was unlocked and it looked like she took out the garbage, where she may have encountered someone, but authorities are unable to verify that.

No merchandise appeared to be taken and no cash was missing from the register. There was no sign of a struggle inside or outside of the store. The store was equipped with security cameras, but they were not recording that night.

With the evidence at hand, investigators suspected Anthony was taken from the store against her will. On April 13, 2001, Anthony's body was found in a ditch off Nelson Road in Breezy Point by four horseback riders, who were in their teens. The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia due to homicidal violence.

In a Dispatch story on Anthony published last year, a retired BCA agent said it appeared the killer threw her body over the high-packed snowbank off the road and into the ditch, which was about 30-40 feet down. The agent said with the snow melting and the elevation of the horseback riders, it helped in spotting the body. The riders were also traveling at a much slower speed than vehicles.

"Whoever did this was extremely lucky," the agent said. "This is just another indication that the person who did this was from this area. No one from out of this area would even know about this road. This is a back road between Pequot Lakes and Breezy Point and only someone from this area would be able to find this road."

Authorities have not forgotten about Anthony and the case remains open. The remaining pieces of the puzzle are needed to solve the mystery and authorities will not stop until the pieces are found, Burch said.