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Bartender found dead after spending evening with married coworker

AP PhotoJohn Raoux (49)

Officials in Minnesota are reporting that the remains of a missing bartender have been found after she spent an evening with a married coworker.

The remains of 32- year-old Amanda Jo Vangrinsven were discovered buried in a yard of one of her coworkers last week, several days after she was reported missing on August 5th.

According to witness reports, the day before Vangrinsven went missing, she was seen drinking at the Isanti VFW where she worked. Those who were working that night told authorities that Vangrinsven was drinking with another coworker 37-year-old Richard Melvin Peterson, and was visibly drunk. The coworkers said that they decided to cut Vangrinsven off and that’s when Peterson offered to take her home.

Witnesses told police that they did not feel comfortable with the situation but did not put up a fight with Peterson, who is said to serve in a “leadership role” at the bar.

Despite offering to take her home, Vangrinsven and Peterson were later seen at another bar called The Dugout Bar and Grill. Witnesses at that establishment told authorities that Vangrinsven was “noticeably intoxicated,” and that she and Peterson where extremely affectionate towards each other despite Peterson’s martial status:

“Amanda and Rick mutually showed a public display of affections as they kissed one another, sat close to one another, while Amanda rubbed Rick’s leg and the inside of his thigh and while Rick rubbed Amanda’s back under her shirt and put his hands down Amanda’s pants touching her buttocks with his hand,” the warrant states.

Workers at the Dugout bar and Grill offered to take Vangerinsven home but again Peterson said he would.

When Vangerinsven did not show up for work the next day, her coworkers then contacted police.

On August 7th, authorities began a grid search for Vangerinsven but had no luck. They then became suspicious of Peterson after realizing that he kept giving them conflicting stories.

Authorities also reported that coworkers told them that Peterson had a habit of starring down female employees when he drank and could become violent.

A few days into the search for Vangerinsven, authorities received a search warrant for Peterson’s 20- acre residence.

Investigators reported that while on the property, Peterson told them “to check the pond,” however, authorities noticed several areas of land that seemed to have been recently disturbed on the property:

“Lieutenant McCarty continued to unearth the broken sod and ground and discovered two white shoes,” states the warrant, which describes a team effort between local law enforcement, the FBI, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. They “asked that earth be excavated around the shoes to confirm a body existed,” the warrant explains. “In doing so, the shoes were attached to feet which were attached to leg showing jean shorts and clothing matching Amanda’s. The continued excavation around the body led to the visual confirmation that the body was the person of Amanda Vangrinsven.”

Authorities reported that a preliminary examination by the medical examiner’s office  revealed “a projectile, consistent with a bullet, lodged in the skull.”

Before police could take Peterson into custody, he checked himself into a Veterans Affairs psychiatric facility in St. Cloud.

Peterson’s wife told authorities that she had questions about the story Peterson told her about that night but did not initially come forward because she feared for her life and her husband’s life.

She has since released a statement to media outlets regarding Vangerinsven’s death:

“My heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to Amanda’s family and friends. The individual who she was last seen with is no longer in the community and is being held in a locked mental health facility. I am actively cooperating and will continue to cooperate with all law-enforcement agencies. I please request privacy for my family and myself.”

On Tuesday, Peterson was arrested on a probable cause murder hold but h e has not yet been formally charged.