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A Minnesota Teen Stopped at a Gas Station with Car Troubles During A Blizzard. She Got in Another Car and Hasn't Been Seen Since.

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Source: National Center For Missing And Exploited Children; Unsplash

Dec. 27 2023, Published 12:00 p.m. ET

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A Minnesota teenager went out during a blizzard in 1988 before her car started to overheat. She pulled into a gas station, where she would last be seen getting into a car with an unknown man.

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Susan Swedell, who was 19 when she went missing at a Lake Elmo, Minnesota gas station, has still not been heard from more than 34 years later.

According to the Pioneer Press, Swedell was on her way home from her job at Kmart in Oak Park Heights a little after 9 p.m. on Jan. 18, 1988. After her car started to overheat, a gas-station attendant gave her permission to leave her car at the K Station, which was a mile from her home.

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The clerk reported seeing the woman get into a car with a man, and that's the last time she was seen.

“We don’t know what happened that night,” Kathy Swedell, Sue’s mother, told the Pioneer Press in 2018. “She was telling us that she was going to come home because it was an all-out Minnesota blizzard. When I looked out our window, I could barely see across the street, and here she was driving home. We didn’t know if she had stopped someplace or tried to walk. It was terrible. No sign of Susan. No call. Nothing. Officers did go out and look for her, but by the time they found her car, there was no sign of Susan.

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“It is a nightmare not knowing who he was or what his intentions were.”

There is still a $25,000 reward in the case.

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"It’s not getting any easier, it’s so different from a death in the family," Christine Swedell, Susan's sister, told Fox 9 in early 2022.

According to the gas station attendant, Swedell pulled into the gas station around 9:30 p.m., followed by a "light-colored older model car with sport wheels that was in good shape but dirty," Troy Ackerknecht, a detective with the Washington County Sheriff's Office told the Pioneer Press.

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Swedell and the man, who is described as slim and 6 foot to 6-foot-2 with long sandy-brown hair and a beard, talked for a few minutes before leaving. When police found her car the next day, they found Swedell's glasses, driver's license and purse, the Pioneer Press reported.

Missing Persons

“I mean, really, that doesn’t make sense. She was very near-sighted. Maybe she thought she was going to meet someone for a short time, and he would bring her back," Kathy Swedell told the Pioneer Press.

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The Washington County Sheriff's Office is using social media in hopes to learn information, according to Fox 9. Deputies marked Susan's Day on Jan. 19, 2022, with five posts going up during the day to draw attention to the case.

"We came about this idea to try something different, try to generate talk all day long… not just once," Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry told Fox 9.

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Christine Swedell noted that family members have since died without ever knowing what happened to Susan.

"My mom is going on 80," she told Fox 9. "It’s just, too many people are leaving, so many family members are gone, and they never knew."

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The Pioneer Press reports that Susan Swedell had been talking with several men, and her Kmart co-workers said that she received serval calls at work from a man. However, technology then was far behind where it is now, making it difficult for police to nail down a suspect.

“We looked at everybody and talked to everybody,” Washington County Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Andy Ellickson told the Pioneer Press. “There is so little to go on. This was before cellphones, and there are no surveillance cameras. This could not happen in this day and age.”

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The Washington County Sheriff's Office put together a cold case team for the case and created a podcast called "Still Missing" in further attempt to keep attention on the disappearance.

“Someone does know something, and we’re searching for that person and those answers,” Starry told the Pioneer Press in 2018. “Certainly a 19-year-old female just does not disappear for 30 years without someone knowing something.”


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