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A St. Peter woman was murdered and her suspected killer and neighbor committed suicide shortly afterward in a case that stunned the community in late July.

Michaela Widmer, 22, was stabbed to death July 24 or 25, and her body was found in a cemetery in nearby Kasota on July 26.

Authorities began the search for Widmer July 24 when her 4-year-old daughter Kassandra was found alone and covered with bug bites at a Lake Emily boat landing area.

The body of suspected killer Ricardo Taber, 53, was found that same weekend in his St. Peter home, which abutted Widmer’s in a mobile home park.

A medical examiner ruled that Taber poisoned himself.

Taber, who lived alone, was said to have an obsession with Widmer and apparently told her he won money in a lottery and wanted to give her some.

He persuaded her to go to Mankato with him, ostensibly to deposit a check into Widmer’s bank account. Kassandra accompanied them.

Darnell Mears, Widmer’s fiancé who lived with her and the girl, said Taber was a good neighbor for three years but in recent months had become increasingly infatuated with Widmer, buying her gifts and giving her money.

Mears said Taber also would ask him sexually charged questions about Widmer.

Mears said he confronted Taber about his behavior, though Widmer didn’t appear similarly concerned.

“She said, “He gives me the creeps, but I think he’s harmless,’” Mears said.

The weapon used in the murder was found in a trash bin behind the movie theater in St. Peter, where Taber was a janitor.

On the Friday that Widmer disappeared, Taber left Kassandra at the theater with another employee. He was gone about an hour, time that may have been used to deposit Widmer’s body at the cemetery.

Where Widmer was killed remains unknown. St. Peter Police Chief Matt Peters said it was plausible that Taber planned to kill the girl as well but left her unharmed.

In September a benefit was held for Kassandra, with several thousand dollars raised at a silent auction and car race at the Nicollet County Fairgrounds.

The girl was placed in foster care after her mother’s death and remains with a foster family in Le Sueur while the adoption process involving relatives proceeds.

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