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Duluth woman charged in connection with dismembered body in Lake Superior

While court documents name a suspect who allegedly shot Richard Balsimo, formal charges at this point have only been filed against two people who allegedly disposed of the body.

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DULUTH — A Duluth woman was arrested and charged Wednesday, Aug. 11, accused of assisting a man in the disposal of a dismembered body in Lake Superior.

Tommi Lynn Hintz, 31, was taken into custody by the Duluth Police Department shortly after an arrest warrant was issued. She is charged with felony counts of aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact and interference with a dead body.

Hintz is the second person to be charged in connection with the June death of 34-year-old Richard Anthony Balsimo, of St. Paul. According to court documents, Balsimo was shot in the torso and dismembered before being placed into several 5-gallon buckets that were deposited in the lake off Grand Portage, Minnesota.

Robert Thomas West, 41, of South Range, Wisconsin, was charged July 16 with the same offenses. There have yet to be any formal murder charges filed against anyone for Balsimo's killing.

According to court documents:

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The Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Wisconsin learned that Balsimo was "likely murdered and dismembered on June 20 and his body later placed in 5-gallon buckets in Lake Superior outside of Grand Portage."

Hintz agreed to speak with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension about what she'd seen, saying West and another suspect had met up at West's home. The suspect appeared nervous about something he was carrying in his car, but the witness wasn't sure why, the complaint said. When asked, the suspect allegedly said, "Please don't make me tell you what I have on me." Hintz also allegedly saw bullet holes in the passenger seat of the suspect's vehicle.

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Richard Anthony Balsimo

On June 22, West allegedly asked Hintz if she knew anyone with a boat because he "wanted to go fishing." Hintz mentioned a friend in Grand Portage who was a commercial fisherman and owned a boat, the complaint said.

The witness and West caravanned in separate vehicles to Grand Portage. They stopped at a camping area about 15 minutes from Grand Portage. The witness asked West if he was paranoid, to which he responded, "Ya, with a dead body in the back," the complaint said. When Hintz and West met the commercial fisherman in Grand Portage at about 11:30 p.m., West allegedly claimed he had some of "his grandmother's valuables that he wanted to dump in the lake."

On June 23, the complaint said, Hintz overheard a conversation about three buckets, at which point West allegedly revealed that Balsimo had been shot by the other suspect "in self-defense."

Investigators also spoke with the fisherman, who said he met with West on June 23. West allegedly asked him to take him on his boat on Lake Superior, and the fisherman witnessed West drop two 5-gallon buckets and one large tote into the lake, the complaint said. West allegedly said the tote contained the body of a dog. The fisherman also noted that the buckets were likely heavy, as West strained while lifting them, one at a time.

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Robert Thomas West.jpeg
Robert Thomas West

The fisherman later took investigators back to the approximate area where the containers were dropped, where, with help from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, a tote and one 5-gallon bucket were removed from the bottom of Lake Superior on July 15 and 16.

Within the tote was a male human torso with legs, arms and head removed. The remains were sent to the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office, where bullet wounds were noted on the victim's torso. In the pocket of a pair of pants in the tote, a casino players card belonging to Balsimo was found.

West was in custody in Douglas County on unrelated charges when he asked to speak with law enforcement. He allegedly confessed to coming up with the plan to dispose of the body and corroborated a number of details in both of the other witnesses' statements, according to the complaint.

The Balsimo family had hired private investigators from Applied Professional Services in Duluth on July 1 to help locate their son. A statement from the agency said investigators were first to uncover evidence identifying him as a likely homicide victim, along with the suspects and the location of his remains.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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