15 Years After Teen's Murder, Her Roommate Is Charged

Police arrest Nichole Rice, 34, in connection with fatal stabbing of Anita Knutson, 18, in Minot, ND
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2022 9:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – Nearly 15 years after a North Dakota teen was found murdered in her home, a crack has finally been made in the case. Police in Minot say that Nichole Rice, 34, has been arrested in connection with 18-year-old Anita Knutson's killing, after more than 10 years in which "there was no person of interest, little evidence, and a murder victim with no justice," per KXMB. The Minot State University freshman was found dead in her bedroom on June 4, 2007, after her dad, Gordon Knutson, hadn't heard from her in a few days, drove to her apartment, and saw a blood-stained mattress through the window, he told Crime Watch Daily in an earlier interview, per the Washington Post. Police say Anita Knutson, who was found on her bed with a housecoat placed over her, had been stabbed to death.

Knutson's family wasn't happy with the yearslong investigation that followed, claiming that law enforcement botched the search to find her killer. On Wednesday, Minot Police Chief John Klug announced his team finally had a suspect: Rice, who'd gone to high school with Knutson and was Knutson's roommate at the time of her murder, per InForum. When the probe into the killing initially began, Rice is said to have told police she was with her family the weekend before Knutson was found, but according to an affidavit of probable cause for Rice, police found remarks by both Rice and her parents to be "inconsistent and contradictory," per the Post. Those who knew both young women also labeled Rice "hot-tempered and reactionary."

"Anita was scared of her," Knutson's mom, Sharon Knutson, told Crime Watch Daily in the earlier interview, noting her daughter had planned to move out of the apartment she shared with Rice. But police say they didn't have enough evidence to charge Rice—until earlier this month, when they were able to track down an ex-boyfriend whom Rice allegedly confessed the crime to, per the affidavit. Rice was arrested Wednesday while at her civilian job at Minot Air Force Base. Police haven't yet revealed a motive. Rice, who was released from Ward County Jail after posting a $120,000 bond, faces life in prison without chance for parole if she's convicted of the felony charge of intentional murder against her, per KFYR. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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