MOORHEAD, Minn. -- Despite an in-depth consultation with FBI profilers this summer, police still don't know who killed Tommy Bearson.
Sunday is the one-year anniversary of the last time the North Dakota State University freshman was seen alive. But police said Wednesday they still don't have a suspect or a motive in the killing of the 18-year-old, who walked away from a party at a house near the NDSU campus Sept. 20 before his body was found three days later about five miles away in an RV lot in south Moorhead.
"This is a very difficult case," said Moorhead Police Lt. Tory Jacobson.
The late July visit with the FBI's behavioral analysis unit was an unprecedented move for the Moorhead Police Department, which has been leading the homicide investigation for the past year.
Two Moorhead detectives, along with Fargo police and agents from the local offices of the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension met with the FBI team for a brainstorming session.
Unit members, who include criminologists and medical experts within their ranks, didn't offer up a unified theory but did provide suggestions for investigators that allowed them to narrow down possible scenarios and focus on certain leads.
One of those suggestions is already underway, as Moorhead investigators prepare to meet with Ramsey County medical examiners to clarify certain scientific terms with the doctors who performed an autopsy on Bearson.
Jacobson declined to detail what other assistance the FBI team members provided, saying only that their advice allows local investigators to "make the bigger web, basically."
Bearson, a high school basketball standout from Sartell, Minn., had been attending NDSU for just four weeks.
His parents declined to comment on the case as the one-year mark since their son's death approaches.
They did release a statement, which said in part, "Not a day goes by that we don't remember the pride and joy that he brought us. ... He was a kind, giving, and generous soul. He will never be forgotten."
Though police have said Bearson was killed by an act of "homicidal violence," they haven't specified how, claiming the details of how he died are sensitive to the investigation.
One of Bearson's shoes, and his cellphone, are still missing. Police have asked for the public's help in finding both items.
Jacobson said there's no truth to the notion that the killer's trail is growing cold, but acknowledged the case is wearing on officers, who meet regularly to trade notes about the ongoing investigation.
No Moorhead investigator is dedicated full time to the investigation, but each of the department's investigators has worked the case at some point, he said.
"As much as it is a wound for the family, it's still very much a wound for the community, and our officers," Jacobson said.
For some NDSU students, Bearson's death still weighs heavily.
New transfer Libby Kruse said many of her friends were close to Bearson's friends, and they are aching for answers.
"I know a couple people who said he was such a good guy. They can't understand why it happened to him," Kruse said.
Concerns over her own safety made Kruse think hard about choosing NDSU. Her new roommates walk her everywhere she goes after dark and off-campus.
Some incoming NDSU freshmen, like Josh Zickerman of Blaine, Minn., haven't heard about the Bearson case. But after hearing the details, including that Bearson's killer remains at large, Zickermann wasn't alarmed about his personal safety.
"Basically, campus police are everywhere," he said.
Jacobson said Wednesday that new tips are coming in regularly. The investigation has generated "extensive interest in possible scenarios," he said.
Bearson's girlfriend disclosed in a series of Facebook posts in late June that some of Bearson's friends, including one of the last to see him alive, have declined to take lie detector tests sought by police in connection with the investigation.
A man who answered the door at the address of the house party where Bearson was last seen declined to comment Wednesday.
Jacobson wouldn't say how the friends' refusal to take polygraphs, which are inadmissible in court, affected the investigation.
Police have said lie detector tests are used regularly in serious or difficult investigations to help gauge the validity of information and eliminate possible suspects.
Bearson's parents have spoken out previously against his friends' refusal to take the polygraph.
In their statement Wednesday, they said, "Whether the person, or people, who did this are caught, and we're convinced they will be, one thing will always remain true: they can never escape from who they are and what they did.
"Without responsibility, there can only be darkness and guilt in their lives."