Two charged in Anarae Schunk’s death

The Dakota County District Court released a complaint Friday detailing the murder.

by Meghan Holden

Nine months after Anarae Schunk’s body was found in a rural ditch, two people are facing charges for the University of Minnesota student’s murder.

Shavelle Chavez-Nelson, also known as Anthony Lee Nelson, 32, and Ashley Conrade, 24, are charged with second-degree intentional murder for aiding each other in Schunk’s death last fall.

Police don’t know the motives behind the murder or the exact events leading up to it, but Friday’s charges in the Dakota County District Court brought some relief to those waiting for answers.

“I think we’re all … satisfied that charges were pressed and that they both were included,” said Anarae’s mother, Mariana Schunk, on Thursday. “We know that it’s a long haul [from the charges] moving forward.”

Conrade’s bail is set at $2 million or $750,000 with conditions. Her next court appearance is July 11. Nelson’s next court date is the same day, and he’s currently in state prison until 2019 for a conviction unrelated to the recent charge.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said he’ll convene a grand jury in the near future to file additional charges against both Conrade and Nelson.

“While we cannot bring Anarae back, we can and we will do everything in our power to bring to justice the persons responsible for causing her death,” he said Friday at a news conference.

Piecing it together

The last time Schunk’s family saw her was Sept. 21, when her father dropped her off at a Caribou Coffee in Burnsville, Minn. The 20-year-old didn’t tell her parents who she was meeting, but they knew she had recently been in contact with Nelson, her ex-boyfriend with whom she severed ties in fall 2012.

Schunk met up with a friend later that afternoon and told her that she was going to get back $5,000 she had loaned Nelson while the two were dating, according to the complaint.

Schunk, Nelson and Conrade — who was Nelson’s girlfriend at the time — went to Nina’s Bar and Grill in Burnsville later that evening. According to the complaint, Conrade said she felt upset and jealous of Schunk, in part because Nelson had put his arm around her.

Later that night, Nelson allegedly shot and killed Palagor Jobi in the parking lot of Nina’s Grill. He’s now facing first- and second-degree intentional murder charges for that case, with a trial date set for Oct. 27. Conrade was charged with aiding an offender for allegedly harboring Nelson in her home until his arrest two days after the shooting.

After leaving the bar, the three went to Conrade’s townhouse. Conrade changed her story multiple times when telling officers what happened next.

According to the complaint, Schunk was stabbed 22 times in Conrade’s kitchen during the early morning hours of Sept. 22.

Later that day, Schunk’s clothes were cut off and her body was placed in a plastic tote and then loaded into the trunk of Conrade’s car, according to the charges.

Schunk’s body was found in a ditch in rural Rice County with ashes on her body, indicating that someone may have tried to set her on fire, the complaint read. Police found an empty bottle of lighter fluid and matches in the front of Conrade’s car while searching it.

Cuts and wounds on Schunk’s hands showed that “she fought for her life,” Backstrom said at the press conference.

Conrade denied having anything to do with her death and said in the complaint that she saw Schunk’s body lying on her kitchen floor when she came home from work on the afternoon of Sept. 22. Police found a plastic tote and a hacksaw containing traces of Schunk’s blood at Conrade’s residence.

Bloodstains on the kitchen floor matched DNA from both Conrade and Schunk, the court documents said.

A co-worker said Conrade came to work at a gas station the morning of Sept. 22 with a discolored finger, a deep cut on her palm and a cut on her arm, according to the complaint.

Conrade admitted to helping Nelson put a plastic tote covered by a blanket in the trunk of her car the night of Sept. 22. She said she assumed the tote contained Schunk’s body, according to the complaint.

A surveillance video showed Nelson and Conrade buying 55-gallon plastic garbage bags, bleach and a finger splint at Wal-Mart in Apple Valley, Minn., on Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. — about one hour after Conrade said Nelson had picked her up from work.

The trunk of Conrade’s car was lined with plastic bags, which had Schunk’s blood and Nelson’s fingerprints on them, the complaint said. 

Police also searched Nelson’s estranged wife’s St. Paul home, where she said Nelson came on the morning of Sept. 22 and dropped off a backpack and a garbage bag. She said he also brought a kitchen knife, which he threw on the roof of the apartment building, according to the complaint.

Among other items covered in blood, the garbage bag contained the University of Minnesota sweatshirt that Schunk was last seen wearing, riddled with puncture marks and stained light green, apparently from bleach.

Though Conrade and Nelson continually denied killing Schunk, Backstrom said the evidence police have collected prove they aided each other in her murder.

Nelson’s past

Schunk and Conrade shared similar experiences while dating Nelson.

Conrade told police that Schunk had once called her and they had discussed how Nelson had cheated on each of them and all the women he’d been involved with.

Conrade said she and Nelson had been dating on and off for a year, the charges said. Nelson was controlling, she told police, and she was afraid of him. According to the complaint, Conrade said Nelson had assaulted her in the past.

When an investigator approached her with a string of evidence related to Schunk’s murder, Conrade said, “So how is that my fault that he had control of my entire life?”

In an earlier interview, the complaint said that Conrade “repeatedly professed her deep love” for Nelson and didn’t believe that “he would ever kill a woman.”

Schunk and Nelson met at a bus stop when he approached her about a book she was reading on chess — one of her greatest passions in life.

Nelson had a heavy criminal history before meeting Schunk. At the time, he had been convicted of at least four felonies.

He posted bail on an armed burglary charge just days before Schunk was murdered.

Schunk always wanted to see the good in people, her mother Mariana Schunk said, and she thought she could save Nelson from his troubled past.

“From all that I have learned about Anarae Schunk since her disappearance and death, I can tell you that she was a lovely, intelligent and kind-hearted young woman,” Backstrom said at the conference. “She may, unfortunately, have been a little too kind-hearted when she began a relationship with a man now charged with her murder.”