Mille Lacs sheriff on homicide case: 'I've never seen something like this'
Authorities are calling the murder of a 25-year-old Isle man a possible revenge killing related to a fentanyl overdose in January
MILACA, Minn. — Authorities are calling the murder of a 25-year-old Isle man a possible revenge killing related to a fentanyl overdose in January.
Mille Lacs County Sheriff Kyle Burton on Tuesday, March 28, provided details surrounding the human remains found in a storage tote March 21 on Twilight Road, which hugs Mille Lacs Lake between the lake and Highway 169, south of Vineland Bay.
“In 23 years of law enforcement, I've never seen something like this,” Burton said during a media briefing on the investigation. “I've dealt with my fair share of homicides in my career, but I've never seen one like this.”
On Jan. 10, 2023, Brandon Elling, brother of Alexis Elling, died from an overdose of fentanyl. During the investigation surrounding the death of Brandon Elling, Burton said law enforcement was told Rodney Pendegayosh Jr., 25, of Isle, may have been involved.
“The medical examiner confirmed it was an overdose involving fentanyl and a mixture of methamphetamine,” Burton said. “Rodney Pendegayosh Jr.’s name was mentioned to law enforcement as possibly having been involved with that. We can't confirm that he was 100% involved in it, but his name was mentioned by witnesses that were there.”
In an interview with the Dispatch, Burton said Pendegayosh was known to law enforcement as being associated with controlled substances in the area.
At the time of his death, Pendegayosh had an active warrant for second-degree assault, and in 2019, he was convicted in Crow Wing County for narcotics possession.
On Friday, March 24, the body found in the plastic storage container was officially identified as Pendegayosh.
Bradley Allen Weyaus, 21, of Isle, was charged March 23 in the Pendegayosh case with second-degree murder, fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, and interference with a dead body or scene of death-concealing a body and evidence.
The girlfriend of Weyaus, Alexis Marion Elling, 21, of Rochester, was arrested at a gas station in Onamia on March 23 and charged with felony aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact.
Weyaus and Elling remained in custody in the Mille Lacs County Jail as of Tuesday afternoon. They are scheduled to make their initial appearance in Mille Lacs County District Court on April 4.
The investigation into the death of Brandon Elling is ongoing, Burton said.
More is known
During the Tuesday media briefing, Burton detailed how the case quickly evolved, leading to the arrests of Weyaus and Elling.
Burton said law enforcement received information around March 20 about Pendegayosh being missing from the area, though no missing person report was filed.
Before a county maintenance crew discovered the remains, Burton said his department received reports of Weyaus traveling in a white vehicle with a storage tote.
On March 21, Mille Lacs County highway maintenance workers were clearing an area on Twilight Road near Mille Lacs Lake. During this operation, the employees discovered a storage container abandoned off the side of Twilight Road.
The black storage container was bound with bungee cords and industrial tape. Due to its weight and position on the side of the road, maintenance workers hooked it up to a vehicle. When they tried to pull the tote out, they broke a handle on the tote. It was then they decided to cut it open and see what was inside.
When the workers opened the container, they observed a severed human foot and immediately contacted law enforcement.
A sheriff’s officer was responding to the scene of the discovery when a white Saturn traveling in the same direction refused to pull to the side and let the officer pass. Instead, the driver of the Saturn began accelerating at a high rate of speed. The officer recognized the vehicle as being associated with Weyaus.
In pursuit of the Saturn, the chase approached the location of the storage container on Twilight Road and the Saturn made a high‐speed turn away from the location and in the direction of Highway 169.
The officer continued to the location of the body and radioed for other officers to pursue the car, losing track of the vehicle in the meantime.
Law enforcement located the Saturn on a rural property near Southport Road in Mille Lacs County. A resident of the property indicated that the individual driving the Saturn was Weyaus and that he was hiding in a building on the property. He was seen exiting the vehicle with one or more duffel bags.
The residents of the property were familiar with Weyaus and that Weyaus was familiar with the property, Burton said.
Burton said he was on his way to the scene where the body was found when the tribal police chief called to ask how they could assist.
“The fact that we had so many law enforcement officers in that area just made the odds a little bit better in our favor that we were going to find this white car as fast as we did,” Burton said. “Having the information ahead of time on the vehicle certainly helped.”
Weyaus was arrested on warrants and for fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle.
“Cooperation, collaboration, I think is the key,” Burton said as he described how law enforcement was able to locate Weyaus within two hours of the body being found.
In a search of the Saturn’s interior, a spent shotgun shell was found.
“Preliminary cause of death is going to be from a gunshot to the chest area,” Burton said. “The manner of death is going to be homicide, cause of death is from a gunshot to the chest. We believe that was a shotgun.”
Burton said his department was still going through a week's worth of video footage they received showing Weyaus and Alexis Elling carrying the tote out of the apartment on Main Street in Isle.
“We've got an entire week's worth of surveillance video to go through from that business across the street,” Burton said. “That's going to take somebody a lot of time to watch … to see who all’s coming in and out of that place.”
As his department processes the information, Burton said there might be others who are charged in connection to these crimes.
“We have a lot of warrants that we have done for cellphones involved in this case, including going back to the Jan. 10 incident with the overdose,” Burton said. “That takes a long time to process all of that data on those phones. We've got multiple warrants for Facebook accounts … and also DNA processing. BCA (the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) is gonna put a rush on that, given the nature of this case, but that does take time.”