Evidence of second human body in Westbrook fire pit is revealed
WESTBROOK -- If Westbrook residents were shocked to learn a dead body had been put in a bonfire in October 2008 so alleged murderers could dispose of evidence, they were probably stunned to learn the medical examiner had informed the Cottonwood County Sheriff's Office in November 2009 there were more bones than there should be.
Cottonwood County Sheriff Jason Purrington said Friday his office was contacted by Anoka County in November regarding the human remains of Edwin Hawes, who was allegedly murdered near his home in Andover. The body was allegedly transported to rural Westbrook and put in a fire pit. Edwin Hawes' sister Elizabeth Hawes, brother Andrew Hawes and Andrew's girlfriend Kristina Dorniden were each charged in Edwin's death.
The forensic anthropologist who reconstructed and examined the partial skeleton remains of Edwin Hawes located three inconsistent bones. Part of a left eye socket, part of a jawbone and a fragmented piece of fibula, all of which were already accounted for in Hawes' remains, were discovered from the evidence that was recovered at the scene.
"We were contacted, then obtained a search warrant and went back out to the original site," Purrington reported Friday. "We were looking for additional evidence or bones. We did find some small bone fragments, but they are too tiny to say if they were from the homicide victim or from the same source as the extra bones."
According to the warrant application, the third fibula had greater fire damage and was not consistent in size with the other two belonging to Edwin.
"Based upon this discovery," the application states, "(the doctor) has concluded a minimum of two partial human bodies were present in the fire pit."
When asked why information about a possible second victim was not released sooner, Purrington said his office, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and Anoka County authorities wanted to look into the situation deeper.
"We are not calling it a homicide right now and we are not sure of all the circumstances," Purrington explained. "There are questions we want to answer before we label it one way or another."
Purrington's office is still in charge of the case, and it is currently still under investigation.
He seemed doubtful that DNA evidence would be obtained from the bone fragments located during either search, but said the medical examiner has control of that part of the investigation. He has only seen pictures of the extra bones, he said.
Elizabeth Hawes was convicted in January of first-degree murder aiding and abetting and sentenced to life in prison without parole, but last week Andrew Hawes reportedly told his attorneys he would waive his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and testify about his knowledge of Edwin's death. He has stated his sister played no role in planning it. His own trial is scheduled for April.
"There are twists and turns everywhere," Purrington commented.
Edwin was last seen around 6 p.m. Oct. 29, 2008, at a fitness center in Coon Rapids, according to a criminal complaint, and a neighbor heard multiple raised voices outside Edwin's home at approximately 7 p.m.
A deputy discovered Edwin's wallet in the road and brought it to his home, noting a large bloodstain on the driveway but attributing the stain to the cleaning of a deer.
After a roommate reported him missing on the afternoon of Oct. 30, 2008, raising concerns about the blood stain. A medical examiner said the volume of blood at the scene would be a critical loss for a human to endure, the complaint states. Within the pool of blood, authorities found a key to the Andover home, a pair of pants and a broadhead from an arrow.
When Hawes body was recovered in Westbrook, the medical examiner reportedly found a wound in his chest that could have been caused by an arrow.
An investigation turned up the information that Hawes had taken ownership of land near Westbrook in 2003. An Anoka County deputy asked Westbrook Police Chief Alan Wahl to investigate. Wahl went to the property and observed a large illegal fire. Andrew Hawes was at the scene, and Wahl spoke to him regarding the fire and left. He returned with additional law enforcement at 1 a.m. Oct. 31, 2008, and found Elizabeth at the scene. When asked about the fire, she reported stated, "That's not my brother."
She was taken into custody, and while authorities froze the scene and applied for a search warrant, Dorniden arrived in a truck with a significant amount of blood inside, along with a shoe containing a broken arrow and other evidence.
At the time of his death, Edwin allegedly had a restraining order against both of his siblings. Authorities believe a dispute between the siblings stemmed from Edwin's distribution of an inheritance from their grandmother.