NORTH MANKATO, MINN. – Fifty years ago, a teenager’s body was found in a cornfield north of North Mankato.
Peggy Broas disappeared after leaving her parents’ home on Wheeler Avenue on Aug. 9, 1969. Her body was found the following Sept. 11.
Throughout five decades, investigators have continued seeking information that would lead them to discover who ended the 17-year-old’s life.
“That case remains unsolved, unfortunately,” Nicollet County Chief Deputy Karl Jensen said.
“The problem is there is no physical evidence,” said Marc Chadderdon, criminal investigator with the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office.
Unlike today’s criminal investigations, in 1969, DNA was not being collected and crime scenes were photographed by individuals not trained in law enforcement procedures, he said.
Events leading up to the murder were documented in 1969.
Peggy’s parents had last seen her on a Saturday afternoon as she left for a babysitting job in Mankato. They’d expected her to be back Sunday morning. She wasn’t, so the family assumed she was still working and went ahead with plans to go to St. James.
They suspected something was wrong when she still hadn’t returned Sunday night. Police investigated, receiving reports she had been seen in Mankato and at the Nicollet County Fair in St. Peter that Sunday. Those initial reports weren’t confirmed.
Investigators determined that Peggy died as the result of being struck on the head.
The remains of another girl, 14-year-old Sandra Meinke of Webster, had been found in a wooded area north of Montgomery on the same day Peggy’s body was found.
The Meinke case was later solved and a 39-year-old Prior Lake man, James H. Johnson, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Investigators have never been able to link Johnson to the murder of Peggy Broas.
“They did a lot of leg work on that one, and there was no connection,” Jensen said.
“It was such a horrible coincidence, two rural teens murdered about the same time,” Chadderdon said.
Jensen was only 3 years old in 1969, but he remembers hearing his father, Richard Jensen, describe the Broas case.
The elder Jensen was a deputy who was in the cornfield off Nicollet County Road 13, near what is now North Mankato’s Benson Park, the day Peggy’s body was found.
“He talked about it over the years. … He went to his grave wanting to have the case solved,” Karl Jensen told a Free Press reporter during an interview in November 2008 about an idea he had to help solve the case and give hope to the survivors.
He knew of a deck of playing cards being designed through the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and Department of Corrections. Cards featuring photos and information about cold-case victims, who at that time included Jacob Wetterling, comprised the decks intended for delivery to the hands of prison and jail inmates throughout the state.
Investigators hoped card-game conversations would provide leads they could track down.
A similar effort in Florida already had solved two cold cases there.
Karl Jensen, who was an investigator before he was named chief deputy in 2003, had contacted Lynn Broas about including his sister’s photo on a card in a Minnesota-specific deck.
“We had quite a conversation,” Lynn told The Free Press in 2008. “We talked about how a lot of time had passed and that people might want to clear their conscience.”
Peggy’s card, the nine of spades, includes her picture, the day she was last seen alive, the day her body was found and that she died as a result of blunt force trauma.
Peggy’s father, W.E. Broas, died in 2002. Her mother, Arvellis Brummund, died in 2018.
Chadderdon, along with a Bureau of Criminal Affairs officer, decided in 2013 to re-interview surviving family members and friends of the murdered teen.
“I was surprised how much people remembered about Peggy,” Chadderdon said.
Her yearbook picture and a newspaper clipping about her death are included on a website created by reunion organizers for Mankato High School Class of 1969’s website.
Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office is well aware of this year’s milestone anniversary of the North Mankato teen’s unsolved murder, Jensen said. He’s not given up on the hope someone’s memory will be jogged and a new detail will surface.
“We’ve been hoping to again put a spotlight on it,” Jensen said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Chadderdon at 507-934-7121 or the BCA tip line at 877-996-6222.