MOORHEAD — The Clay County Sheriff’s Office has hired a retired investigator who will help the agency look into cold cases, including that of a man found cut in half more than 40 years ago in the Red River.

Dan Baumann, a former agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, will aid the sheriff’s office on a part-time basis, Sheriff Mark Empting told The Forum Thursday, Nov. 5. He has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, including as a Richland County Sheriff’s investigator and a North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent.

“Obviously, it’s excellent to have someone like that,” Empting said. “We’re pretty fortunate that he’s willing to come back after retirement and be willing to work part time for us in an effort to see if we can bring some closure to some of these cases.”

Dakota Spotlight, a true-crime podcast produced by James Wolner, broke the news about Baumann in its episode about Wolf, which was released Thursday. The podcast is featured on Forum Communications Co. websites.

Baumann will take a fresh look at two cases in particular. Billy Wolf Jr.’s remains were found Aug. 20, 1978, in the Red River about 3 miles north of Kragnes, Minn., or about 6 miles of Fargo. The 21-year-old was cut in half and placed into two garbage bags.

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There were several theories about how the man died. His father was charged in connection to his death three months later, but prosecutors later dismissed the case.

Others confessed to the crime, but further probes revealed they were false.

Billy Wolf Jr.
Billy Wolf Jr.

Another case involves a Moorhead woman whose body was found washed up along the Red River 25 years ago. Renae Nelson, 22, went missing in October 1994. Her death was ruled a homicide after she was found in April 1995 near Comstock, Minn., or about 10 miles south of Moorhead.

Investigators previously said they had a suspect, but not enough evidence for a prosecutor to pursue charges.

Renae Nelson
Renae Nelson

Deputies consistently have fresh cases coming in, which keeps them busy, the sheriff said.

“Sometimes they just don’t have the time to sit down and look at those cold cases and follow up on leads,” Empting said.

Empting also noted the case of Tom Bearson, a North Dakota State University freshman who was found in late September 2014 in a Moorhead RV sales lot. No arrests have been made in connection to the death of the 18-year-old.

Tommy Bearson
Tommy Bearson

Investigators said he was a victim of homicidal violence, though little information has been released about the case since it remains active. Death records indicate he died of asphyxiation.

It’s less likely Baumann would work on that case since the Moorhead Police Department is heading the investigation, Empting noted. For now, Baumann will focus on the Nelson and Wolf cases, he said.

Baumann is extremely skilled, well-known and highly respected in the area, Moorhead police Capt. Deric Swenson said. The police department’s investigative leader hasn’t discussed asking Baumann for help in the Bearson case, but the agency wouldn’t turn down his expertise if it was needed, Swenson said.