MENOMONIE, Wis. — Why did four friends from the Twin Cities lose their lives to gun violence with their bodies discovered in an abandoned vehicle in a cornfield in western Wisconsin?
“That is the mystery,” said Damone Presley Sr., whose daughter, Nitosha Lee Flug-Presley, was killed. “Hopefully, through the investigation we’ll get that answered.”
Flug-Presley, 30, of Stillwater, Minnesota, was with her lifelong friend Jasmine Christine Sturm, 30, of St. Paul. One of the men found dead in the vehicle, Matthew Isiah Pettus, 26, of St. Paul, was Sturm’s brother, Presley said. Loyace Foreman III, 35, of St. Paul, was Sturm’s boyfriend.
They had been at a bar in St. Paul on Saturday night. A farmer found the black SUV about 65 miles to the east in Dunn County, Wis., on Sunday.
Dunn County Sheriff Kevin Bygd said authorities believe they died less than 24 hours from the time they were found. He said there was no known connection between Dunn County and the four.
“We’re confident that this was a place these victims were randomly brought to,” Bygd said.
The sheriff announced no arrests on Tuesday. Bygd said the investigation includes looking into acquaintances of the victims. “Everybody’s a suspect at this point,” he added.
There weren’t indications that the quadruple homicide involved drugs or organized criminal activity, Bygd said, though he said the investigation could uncover more about the motive.
The FBI Minneapolis field office is assisting the sheriff’s office, said Kevin Smith, FBI spokesman. If it is determined that the four were killed in Minnesota, it would likely become a joint investigation with the FBI.
Saturday at St. Paul bar
Before the friends were killed, they were hanging out together on Saturday night at a St. Paul bar and they left in a vehicle with someone, Presley said of what he’s been able to piece together.
“Why would this happen?” he said Tuesday. “… It just doesn’t make sense.”
The SUV had been intentionally driven off the road about 50 yards into a cornfield, according to Bygd, in the Town of Sheridan, which is about 30 minutes north of Menomonie. The vehicle was found after the Dunn County Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call about 2:15 p.m. Sunday.
“We can’t find any connection to this area other than possibly randomly driving out of the Twin Cities,” Bygd said.
The sheriff said he suspects the person or people responsible left in another vehicle. The Dunn County sheriff’s office previously said there may have been a second dark-colored SUV traveling with the vehicle that was abandoned, and Bygd said Tuesday they are still trying to determine the validity of that information.
The sheriff also said investigators weren’t disclosing who the abandoned SUV was registered to.
The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office conducted autopsies, and preliminary information shows each died from gunshot wounds, according to the sheriff’s office.
Bygd said he believes the suspects weren’t from the area.
“We can’t suspect somebody locally of randomly killing four people from the Twin Cities,” he added.
Bygd said they developed good information from tips and encouraged people to continue providing them.
Investigators will be reviewing highway and bridge cameras in the area, according to Bygd. St. Paul police homicide investigators are providing assistance when requested and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is also involved.
“It’s highly unusual for this area,” Bygd said. “Obviously, we’ve had homicides in the last several years, but something of this magnitude, I’m working on my 33rd year working for Dunn County and this is a first.”
Remembering their lives
The four who were killed were mothers and fathers.
Loyace Foreman’s mother, Jessica, described him as “a devoted father to two amazing sons.”
“He was a doting uncle to his four nieces and nephews,” she added. “He was the protector of his three sisters. He was not perfect and we loved him unconditionally. He left an unfillable void.”
Foreman was an independent contractor in demolition who loved to draw art freehand, his mother said.
“The family is trusting justice will be served and pleading with the public to come forward if they saw anything or hear something,” said Ashli Jones, Foreman’s sister.
Matthew Pettus was supposed to be starting college classes and had just begun working at Shamrocks Grill & Pub on St. Paul’s West Seventh Street. His sister, Jasmine Sturm, was a longtime server at Shamrocks, but she scaled back her hours since she got a job at a law firm.
Nitosha Flug-Presley’s family knew something was wrong when they couldn’t reach her Sunday, and her cellphone was going directly to voicemail, Presley said. Her children, who are 4 and 11, are taking her loss “very hard,” he said.
“She was an outgoing person, a very good mother, exceptional daughter,” Presley said. “She was very vibrant, she had a good heart, someone who would lift up your spirits.”
Peace activist KG Wilson, who has been a friend of Presley’s for years, stood by him as he addressed the media on Tuesday. Wilson’s 6-year-old granddaughter Aniya Allen died after she was shot in Minneapolis in May, and he said he and Presley shared tears Monday night.
“He’s angry, I’m angry for him,” Wilson said. “… We don’t know how it happened, what happened, who it was, but whoever it was, we want justice. And we want that individual, that type of monster, off the street as soon as possible.”
Deanna Weniger contributed to this report.