EDGERTON — An unsolved 1979 Edgerton death will be the subject of an upcoming episode of "Little Crimes on the Prairie," a new podcast about unsolved crimes in the upper Midwest.
Deborah Vallejo, 14, was found dead in a creek east of Edgerton on Aug. 18, 1979.
"In their investigation officers are seeking to determine if drowning was the cause of death or if some other factor was involved," The Globe reported in its Aug. 20, 1979 edition. "They also are exploring the circumstances of the death seeking to determine if it was accidental or whether homicide may be involved."
As a teenager growing up in Pipestone, Kristi Humphrey, now of Brookings, South Dakota, heard about the death of Vallejo from a friend. She couldn't believe at first that homicide was a possibility, feeling skeptical that a murder could have happened in her own county without her knowing about it.
Over the years, Humphrey periodically Googled Vallejo's name but could never find information about the case. She had all but decided the death was simply a small-town rumor when she finally found a death notice in the archives of the Edgerton Enterprise.
A self-proclaimed "true crime fanatic," Humphrey decided to start a podcast to discuss Vallejo's case and other unsolved cases from the region, feeling that these stories are important to keep telling.
"I look for a little bit of a personal connection" to each case she will cover in her podcast, Humphrey explained.
For example, the first episode will recount the disappearances of Rachel Cyriacks and Eugene Prins, who vanished from Woonsocket, South Dakota in unrelated incidents seven years apart from each other.
Cyriacks was "a wild child in a bad relationship," Humphrey said. "Her story resonates with me. That could've been me."
In the planning stages of her podcast, Humphrey was considering which cases to cover, and a family member mentioned the Vallejo death. Humphrey began reaching out to Edgerton residents from Vallejo's age group to discover what she was like as a person. The vast majority of her contacts either didn't return communication or got back to her and said they didn't remember Vallejo.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the medical examiner's office also couldn't provide much information about Vallejo's case, Humphrey explained. Pipestone County Sheriff Keith Vreeman did allow Humphrey to look at a police report from the case, but it was only two pages long and not very detailed.
Humphrey, a former surveillance officer, was surprised at the lack of specifics surrounding the case. It still appears unknown whether Vallejo died as a result of accidental drowning or foul play, she noted.
Vallejo's death will be covered in the second episode of "Little Crimes on the Prairie." Although Humphrey has heard many rumors about the case, she will only touch on verifiable information. The podcast will be formatted organically as a conversation between Humphrey and a friend who is collaborating on the project with her.
"Little Crimes on the Prairie" is slated to premiere Aug. 10 and will be available for free on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Anyone with information about Vallejo and her death is invited to contact Humphrey at the "Little Crimes on the Prairie Podcast" Facebook page.