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St. Croix Central grad arrested in Duluth murder

A man with local ties has been arrested as a suspect in a murder that was committed at a Duluth, Minn., supermarket Thursday, Dec. 11.

Jesse Alan Dahlstrom, 35, of Duluth, was arrested at the scene and taken to the St. Louis County Jail on a preliminary second-degree intentional homicide charge.

Dahlstrom is the son of Hudson-based SSG Corp Executive Vice President Gail Dahlstrom.

Gail (Nordstrand) Dahlstrom was the first employee of SSG Corporation in 1971. For 43 years she has been the “right-hand person” for SSG’s founder and her brother, Burt Nordstrand. Dahlstrom currently lives in Hammond. Nordstrand, an Ellsworth native, rose to fame and fortune with Hudson-based SSG and played a major role in the opening of the dog track in Hudson in 1991.

SSG Corporation is headquartered in Hudson and is the owner and operator of convenience food stores, gasoline stations and liquor stores in northwestern Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. The company is owned by Burt Nordstrand and his family. Its 40 stores are operated under the Holiday brand and the company-owned “Auto Stop” and “Northland Liquors” brands.

Jesse Dahlstrom graduated from St. Croix Central High School in 1997 and later from UW-River Falls.

According to information from the Duluth News Tribune, the attack, allegedly by Jesse Dahlstrom, was a seemingly random fatal knife attack on an elderly Proctor, Minn., woman at a west Duluth supermarket Duluth Deputy Police Chief Mike Tusken said.

Police confirmed that 75-year-old Sally Marie Pionk was the victim of the attack inside the west Duluth Super One store as she shopped just before 8 p.m. Thursday.

Tusken said police are about “99.99 percent sure” the crime was a random, unprovoked act, but were continuing to investigate. He stressed that this type of crime is rare.

Family statement

SSG owner Burt Nordstrand released a statement on behalf of the family, saying that Jesse has led a troubled life. He said that seven years ago the family attempted to have Jesse “committed.”

Nordstrand wrote: Seven years ago at the Hudson Government Center, in front of Judge Scott Needham, there were requests from St. Joseph hospital — as well as his parents — to have him committed. The judge set him free, and he hitchhiked to Duluth. It was the beginning of the end. He’s now much, much worse and in spite of many requests for help; there was none, the system failed him — as often happens. This is all very sad and, unfortunately, now there are several victims.

Behavior issues

Records indicate that Dahlstrom had no criminal history, but Tusken said officers have had previous contact with him for “aberrant behavior.”

“I think that as our investigation continues, we’re going to see a correlation between someone who was in a mental health crisis and this crime,” he said.

Tusken said Dahlstrom entered the store and was armed with what appeared to be a “non-descript steak knife.” Several employees took notice and followed the man through the store and were nearby when he attacked the woman.

Three store employees quickly subdued the man and held him until police arrived, Tusken said. Some nurses who were shopping in the store unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate the woman before paramedics arrived.

The Duluth News Tribune did a later story, exposing the unusual behavior of Jesse Dahlstrom, who lived in a Duluth home owned by his mother.

In talking with neighbors, the newspaper discovered that Jesse Dahlstrom behaved in troubling ways and was a loner. But there were other descriptors, too. He played music and read poetry at open-mic nights at a west Duluth coffeehouse, Beaner’s Central.

“He was a different kind of guy,” said Jason Wussow, owner of Beaner’s. “Very quiet. He’s very frustrated with society.”

The 35-year-old Dahlstrom talked to himself, neighbors said, saying vulgar and threatening things. Neighbors called police last summer when they found Dahlstrom standing on their porch upon their arrival home.

“We found him staring into our house with a machete in his hand,” said Zach Olsen, 19, who grew up two doors down from the suspect’s home.

Tusken confirmed the machete incident, but said Dahlstrom did not appear to make any threats with the weapon. He said police have had contact with Dahlstrom on a few occasions, which appear to be mostly mental health-related.

The Duluth News Tribune and Fargo Forum contributed to this report.

Doug Stohlberg

Doug Stohlberg has been part of the Hudson Star-Observer since 1973 and has been editor since 1987. He worked at the New Richmond News from 1971 to 1973. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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