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Roommate arrested in 2007 killing of Minot State University student

Nichole Rice is in custody at the Ward County Jail after police said they believed she killed Anita Knutson in 2007.

Anita Knutson
Anita Knutson.
Submitted photo
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MINOT, N.D. — The Minot Police Department has arrested a woman who investigators believe killed her roommate 15 years ago.

Nichole Rice, 34, was arrested Wednesday, March 16, in connection to the death of 18-year-old Anita Knutson, who was found stabbed to death June 4, 2007, in her northwest Minot apartment, Minot Police Chief John Klug said in a news release. Knutson was a Minot State University student.

Rice is expected to be charged with Class AA murder, which carries a maximum punishment of life in prison. She is being held at the Ward County Jail.

Knutson grew up in Butte, North Dakota. She moved to Minot to attend college there.

Knutson's father was concerned about her after not hearing from her over the weekend, Forum News Service previously reported. He drove to Minot to check on her.

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The father and two apartment maintenance workers found Knutson face down in her bed, with a pocket knife nearby, according to the article. A robe covered her body, and a window screen was cut, police said.

It's unknown why the screen was cut, though one theory suggests it was staged to make it look like someone broke into the apartment.

Dozens of statements were taken in the case, but the investigation ran into barriers.

Klug shared few details about what led to Rice’s arrest. Alibis seemingly cleared Rice, who was not named publicly as Knutson’s roommate until Wednesday. Rice's parents told police she was with them the weekend of Knutson's death.

RICE.JPG
Nichole Rice.
Ward County Jail photo

Investigators didn’t have enough evidence to arrest Rice in the past, but she remained a person of interest, Klug said.

Police also looked to a sketch of a man seen running from the apartment around the time Knutson was killed, but investigators cleared him as a regular runner out for a routine jog, Forum News Service reported.

The police department reached out to outside investigators to help solve the case, Klug said, adding that it was a relief to solve the open case.

“In this case, there was not one person that had anything bad to say about Anita,” the chief said. “To me, this was a young girl with a great future that was taken away from her family way too soon.”

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Rice was working as a civilian at Minot Air Force Base when police took her into custody without incident Wednesday.

anita-billboard-2013.jpeg
In 2013, friends and family of Anita Knutson raised funds for a billboard in Minot, North Dakota. Knutson was killed in her apartment in June 2007.
Photo courtesy of In Loving Memory of Anita Knutson Group

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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