HIBBING — Sixty year old Brian Nelson was found stabbed to death in his Hibbing home behind The Bottle Shop he owned and operated in July 2017. The case was never solved and investigators continue to seek the public’s assistance.
The Hibbing Police Department took to Facebook on Wednesday — two years to the day he was found — posting a Spotlight on Crime poster, which offers a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for his death.
Spotlight on Crime introduced the reward last year at this time.
“Since last year, we have received several tips, some we found credible,” Hibbing’s Deputy Police Chief Tyler Schwerzler said during an interview Wednesday. “[However], we are still looking for information and people with first-hand knowledge to come forward.”
The unsolved homicide “still weighs on the community and people still talk about it,” he added. “We need to get this solved — for his family and for the community.”
Established in 2001, Spotlight on Crime is a public-private reward fund that focuses exclusively on helping statewide law enforcement agencies solve violent crimes. It is a collaboration between members of the Minnesota Business Partnership and public safety officials.
Cases to receive Spotlight funds are selected if there is sufficient reason to believe that a significant reward could prompt a witness or someone with information to step forward to provide useful clues to help solve the crime. Since its creation, the fund has offered more than $1.4 million in rewards for information on 26 cases.
According to the recent Spotlight reward poster, Nelson was found at about 4:45 p.m on Monday, July 10, 2017, in his home neighboring the liquor store at 2410 First Ave. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death as a homicide by “sharp force injuries.”
Nelson was last seen alive two days earlier when he closed the store that Saturday evening and brought the cash home with him. He was known to take liquor store proceeds on Saturdays to make bank deposits on Monday mornings.
When Nelson failed to show up for work on Monday, a store employee went to check on him and found his home locked and secure, but gained access to the house. The employee discovered Nelson’s dead body and called 911.
That Saturday was the final day of the 2017 Hibbing Jubilee community festival. Investigators still consider robbery as a potential motive. But no forensic evidence or witnesses have been identified to aid in the investigation, according to the poster.
Schwerzler explained that investigators continue to believe the homicide is an isolated incident since Nelson’s home was secured and whoever committed the murder “seemed to have access to and from the place.” He continued, “We don’t believe it to be random,” although that can’t be ruled out.
According to St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, Hibbing’s only other unsolved murder is the case of Barbara Paciotii, who was last seen alive in the early morning hours of June 14, 1969, with her boyfriend, Jeff Dolinich. The 20-year-old female had been out with a friend during the previous evening, when Dolinich approached the car and asked her to come with him. The couple was seen riding in a 1964 green Oldsmobile.
Later that day, Dolinich told police he had been out drinking and left Hibbing with Paciotii. He told them he struck her during an argument and thought he thought she was dead. He awoke the next morning in Mora, Minn., roughly 148 miles south, with no memory of where he left her. His pants and shoes were covered in grass and mud.
Schwerzler said Paciotti’s body was never recovered.
Spotlight on Crime is also offering a $50,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for her death.
Anyone with information related to these two cases is being urged to contact the Hibbing Police Department at 218-263-3601; or the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Cold Case Unit at 651-793-7000 or 1-800-996-6222.