Man charged in fatal attack on shopper

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2014 6:46 PM

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — A man charged Tuesday with fatally stabbing a 75-year-old woman he didn't know in a Duluth grocery store told investigators he went to the store to "either shop or kill somebody," a criminal complaint alleges.

Jesse Dahlstrom, 35, is accused of grabbing Sally Marie Pionk of Proctor from behind in the bakery section of Super One Foods on Dec. 11 and stabbing her in the neck. Pionk "lost a tremendous amount of blood" and died at the scene, the complaint said.

Dahlstrom appeared in St. Louis County District Court on one count of premeditated first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence upon conviction in Minnesota. Dahlstrom made numerous outbursts in court, saying he wanted to represent himself, WDIO-TV reported.

Judge Eric Hylden set bail at $1 million. Criminal proceedings are on hold while Dahlstrom undergoes a mental health exam requested by his public defender and approved by the judge. Dahlstrom's public defender, Laura Zimm, declined to comment Tuesday.

According to the complaint, a witness reported seeing Dahlstrom enter the store, pull out a knife and walk around with no attempt to conceal the weapon.

A male employee saw Dahlstrom come up behind Pionk and stare at her for about 20 seconds before grabbing her and putting his arm around her neck, the complaint said. The woman "immediately went down to the floor," the complaint said, and the employee ran to kick Dahlstrom away from her. Dahlstrom dropped the knife and was held by several people until police arrived.

An autopsy found Pionk suffered "sharp and blunt force trauma to her neck" and died from blood loss, the complaint said.

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Sally Marie Pionk," St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said in a statement Monday, adding, "We will do our best to hold the offender accountable and seek justice."

Pionk's family thanked the store's employees and customers for their help.

"Sally was a wonderful and dedicated mother," the family's statement said. "She was a caretaker of many. There wasn't a day that went by that she didn't assist someone in need."