Tests may tell how brothers found in Burkhardt apartment diedInvestigators are hoping that toxicology tests will shed some light on what killed Gregory and Jeffrey Knoll.
By: Randy Hansen, New Richmond News
Investigators are hoping that toxicology tests will shed some light on what killed Gregory and Jeffrey Knoll.
The two brothers were found dead in Gregory's apartment in Burkhardt on Tuesday night, May 27, after the owner of the building received an anonymous phone call telling him that something was wrong at the apartment.
According to authorities, Gregory, 43, and Jeffrey, 40, may have been dead for up to two weeks before their bodies were discovered by the landlord.
An autopsy performed last week by the Ramsey County (Minn.) Medical Examiner's office determined that the men hadn't been shot or stabbed, but revealed little else about how they died because of the extent to which their bodies had decomposed.
"I can't rule out anything yet," St. Croix County Sheriff Dennis Hillstead said Thursday, May 29, when asked if the autopsy results had eliminated homicide as the cause of the men's deaths.
"With any death investigation, we always start from the worst case, which would be a homicide," Hillstead said.
He said four sheriff's department investigators are working on the case, examining the available evidence and talking to people to find out what did and did not happen.
Hillstead said the toxicology tests to determine if there were drugs or poisons in the men's bodies would give investigators "another answer."
"And while we are waiting for that, we are running down other pieces of information," he said. "So, hopefully, by the time that comes back, we'll be able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and come up with the correct picture of what happened."
The only drugs found in the apartment were prescription medications belonging to both men, according to Hillstead.
He said both men were unemployed.
Monday afternoon of this week, the sheriff said it could take another two or three weeks for the results of the toxicology tests to arrive. He still wasn't ready to rule out any possible causes of the men's deaths.
The sheriff did say that there was no indication of any type of struggle that occurred prior to the men's deaths.
The autopsies didn't reveal any visible trauma to either body, he said, and the men were found lying where they normally slept.
He said one brother was found on his mattress in the bedroom of the apartment. The other was lying on the floor in the living room, where he customarily slept.
"He had a pillow," Hillstead added.
Blaine Dorweiler of St. Paul, owner of the four-unit apartment building where Gregory Knoll was living, said it was tested for gas leaks and carbon monoxide after the Knolls' bodies were found. Nothing was detected, as far as he knew.
Dorweiler said he had rented an apartment on the main level at the front of the building to Gregory Knoll in February.
Burkhardt is an unincorporated village located a few miles northeast of Hudson, and on the east side of Willow River State Park. Dorweiler's building, once a Midland Co-op store, is in the middle of the village. It hugs the north side of County Road A where the road bends south and east.
Roy Huston, also a resident of the building, said the Knoll brothers were quiet and kept to themselves, although he had occasionally made small talk with them.
Dorweiler said he saw Gregory Knoll only a handful of times in the four months that Knoll was a resident of his building. Knoll hadn't caused any trouble as a tenant, he said.
Asked if he was aware of Knoll's history of run-ins with the law, Dorweiler said, "To be honest with you, I didn't do a background check on him."
Both of the Knoll brothers had their share of encounters with the police over the years. Court records indicate that alcohol and drug abuse was the source of much of their trouble.
Gregory was scheduled to appear Tuesday in St. Croix County Circuit Court on charges of drunken driving, fourth offense, and hit and run with a vehicle.
He was due back in court later in June for his initial appearance on a felony charge of heroin possession.
February was a bad month for Gregory Knoll.
On Feb. 8, a St. Croix County sheriff's deputy was dispatched to Knoll's Burkhardt apartment after receiving a report that he had overdosed on heroin.
The deputy found a severely intoxicated Knoll and two syringes in the apartment - one empty and one containing heroin, according to the deputy's report.
The deputy said Knoll told him he wasn't suicidal, but just needed to "get his head screwed on straight."
Knoll reportedly asked to be taken to St. Joseph Hospital in St. Paul for help with his "addiction problem."
He apparently was out of custody when his mother, Nancy Knoll of Hudson, died on Feb. 20 at the age of 66.
Two days later, he drove his car into the back of another car on Hwy. 12 at County UU after failing to notice that the car in front of him had stopped for a red light.
Minutes later, a sheriff's deputy found Knoll staggering from his car at the MR Convenience station store. The deputy reported that Knoll's eyes were glassy and his speech was slurred.
"I asked Gregory what happened and he said, 'I f--ed up bad' and began to cry a bit," the deputy wrote in his report of the incident.
Events close to 19 years earlier at the nearby truck stop, then Twin City East Auto Truck Plaza, had resulted in a felony charge of arson against Knoll. He allegedly had vandalized a truck stop employee's pickup truck one night, and then returned the next night to set fire to a front-end loader.
In the intervening years between the truck stop incident and the events of last February, Gregory Knoll was arrested several other times. He was charged with offenses ranging from sexual assault and possession of marijuana to disorderly conduct and numerous traffic violations.
Jeffrey Knoll, too, had a history of substance abuse, law-breaking and chemical dependency treatment.
In August of 2006, he spent six days in the psychological unit at St. Joseph Hospital after making suicidal comments.
His medical report from the stay says that "he was felt to have major depression complicated by alcohol dependence."
Jeffrey reportedly told a psychologist at a chemical dependency treatment center where he stayed that he began drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes and marijuana at 12. He said he was snorting cocaine at 18, snorting methamphetamine at 25, and that he tried crack cocaine at 30.
"His current use pattern has been drinking anywhere from one quart to 1.75 liters of brandy per day," according to the discharge report on Jeffrey's stay at the Burkwood House in Burkhardt. His prognosis for recovery when he left St. Joseph Hospital was listed as "guarded."
Jeffrey Knoll dropped out of Hudson High School after his sophomore year and went to work with his father, the late Willy Knoll, in the family auto repair garage.
Willy Knoll, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1959 after having served in the German navy during World War II, died in 1991 at the age of 66.
Jeffrey told his Burkwood counselor that the Knolls were a close family when he was a child. They had often enjoyed boating together, he reportedly said.
According to the Burkwood report, Jeffrey Knoll was married from Valentine's Day of 1989 to Valentine's Day of 1990. He had one son, who is a recent graduate of Hudson High School.
The chemical dependency treatment reports on Jeffrey are part of a court file on him being charged with failing to report to jail in September 2006. He had failed to show up to serve a sentence for disorderly conduct.