Reward offered

for information

that would help solve case

By Janice Gregorson

gregor@postbulletin.com

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Joshua Sorensen was 14 when he met April Larson at a county fair. Nine years later, he asked her to marry him.

"Our lives were a perfect, happy dream; life couldn’t have been better," he said at a news conference Thursday, wiping tears from his eyes.

That changed on April 17, when the 27-year-old woman was found dead in the couple’s northwest Rochester house. She had been stabbed several times in the chest and had injuries to her neck. Whoever killed her set a fire to, authorities believe, try to conceal the crime and destroy evidence.

Police have no motive and no suspects and continue to appeal to the public for information that would help solve the crime. Police announced Thursday a $20,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the killer.

Joshua, tightly holding a tissue, said, "We needed to bring April to you, to show how much she means to us and how much the loss is to us.

"There’s just no reason we should be in this room today."

He was accompanied by April’s parents, Jon and Sandy Larson of Albert Lea; her sister, Holly Larson; brother Randy Larson; and Joshua’s parents, David and JoAnn Sorensen of Alden, Minn. All sat quietly, dabbing their eyes, as Joshua told how he lost his best friend.

April’s activities

April went to school in Albert Lea and graduated in 1998. Joshua was a student at Alden-Conger and graduated in 1999.

While in school, she was active in basketball, volleyball and enjoyed all sports. Her husband said her love of sports continued until her death. She played volleyball and basketball in college. He said she enjoyed running and had finished three marathons with her dad and sister and had raced in the Med City relay marathons with other family members.

One of her favorite pastimes was snowmobiling, he said.

"We shared many laughs and smiles throughout our relationship, some of those coming from our several family snowmobile trips," he said. "April was already planning a snowmobiling trip for next winter." But now her snowmobile and new helmet sit untouched.

Joshua said his wife lived life to the fullest.

"I don’t know a single person that did this better than April. She was enthusiastic about life and would always go the extra mile to be kind to everyone in need without being asked. She always had a smile on her face, and we can all still hear her little giggle," he said, wiping tears form his eyes. "April had a gentle nature about her and would never hurt anyone. That is why her family and I continually ask ourselves, ‘Why would anyone harm our beautiful April?’ She was a good person, and she lived such a meaningful life. Who could do this unthinkable act to such an innocent person?"

The loss, he said, is indescribable.

"All of our lives will never be the same ... ever," he said.

Career choices

After high school graduation, April attended the Mankato School of Cosmetology and then worked at the J.C. Penney Salon in Mankato for three years.

The couple married in August 2003 and moved to Rochester. Joshua worked at IBM, and April worked for two years at the J.C. Penney Salon in Rochester before deciding to switch careers to become a dental hygienist.

At the time of her death, she was working part time at UPS in northwest Rochester and attending classes at Rochester Community Technical College.

Police say that on the morning of her death, she had worked an early shift at UPS, went to class and left the college at 10:50 a.m.

Olmsted County Coroner Dr. Eric Pfeifer, in his death certificate, said she died at 11 a.m. from sharp-force injuries to the neck. He said there was evidence of strangulation, multiple stab wounds to the chest and a postmortem burn injury.

Joshua said April was a hard worker who excelled at her job and was a straight-A student. He said that one month after her death, he received a letter from the college stating April was the top candidate for acceptance into their school of dental hygiene.

"Not only have her family and I suffered a great loss, but the communities April was a part of are suffering, too," he said. "The number of people who grieve for April goes way beyond me and our families."

Joshua said now he has just memories and bittersweet thoughts of what could have been with his wife.

"Today, her family and I live with the fact that April is never coming back, and we also live with the fear that this could happen to any of your loved ones ... for no reason," he said. He urged people to call if they have any information that would help police.

Investigation continues

Capt. Brian Winters said police continue to work closely with agents from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and FBI. The BCA is processing forensic evidence; the FBI is working on a profile of the suspect. Winters reviewed the work that has been done by investigators and said all leads are checked out by investigators.

"Despite these efforts, we have not been able to establish a motive for this crime,’’ Winters said.

He urged residents to be conscious of their personal safety, even at home. He asked people to report suspicious events involving home intrusions and said it is conceivable the killer might have been in the house when April came home from class or that the killer gained entry using some excuse.

Police also continue to look at similarities to crimes committed elsewhere.

Earlier this month, Rochester police met with St. Paul police to see if a 26-year-old man arrested there on attempted murder, rape and arson charges could be linked to the Sorensen case. Winters said there is no evidence of a connection. There are significant differences in the two cases, and the St. Paul suspect has no family or known link to Rochester.